Listen to the Polls
Yesterday's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has both good news and bad news for health reform. Public opinion is mixed on "Barack Obama's plan" (odd, as Barack Obama doesn't currently have a plan). About a third think it's a good idea. About a third think it's a bad idea. About a third don't know. That suggests that we're still early enough in the process that the bulk of people with opinions are the partisans who didn't need to actually form one. Indeed, a few questions later, the pollsters describe the plan in more detail, and support shoots to 55 percent, but opposition barely budges.
But make no mistake: There are elements of health reform that are important, but will be sharply unpopular. Almost 60 percent, for instance, oppose efforts to tax generous health care benefits. I'd guess that when people hear about penalties in the individual mandate, that policy will prove controversial too. Luckily, there are some elements of health reform that meet with overwhelming public approval. Among them is the public plan. According to the poll, 76 percent of Americans believe it's either "extremely important" or "quite important" to "give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance."
Much in health reform is unpopular. The choice of a public insurance option isn't. And given the many hard and controversial choices that will need to be made to achieve health reform, it's not clear to me that the Democrats can afford to lightly remove the genuinely popular aspects of the legislation.
June 19, 2009; 9:45 AM ET
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