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The biggest problem with the health-care system is...

By Ezra Klein


This graph is much more volatile than I'd have expected. Neither the problems of access nor the problems of cost have changed much in recent years -- but their salience in the mind of the public clearly have. The economy would be the obvious culprit, but the changes don't track recessions that closely: Concerns over access more than triple between 2002 and 2004, despite an economic recovery. And then they plummet in 2006. Why?

By Ezra Klein  | November 18, 2010; 9:07 AM ET
Categories:  Health Coverage, Polls  
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All right, this is a naive interpretation, but it looks like nobody even considered government involvement a problem worth asking about till lately. (Polling started when W took office -- what a surprise.) Other than that, cost and access pretty much match up.

Deviations like 1992 (GWB recession) could well be attributed to external economics. Don't know what 2006 is about. Overall, it's an outlier, though.

Posted by: stonedone | November 18, 2010 9:17 AM | Report abuse

The poll includes more than 3 possible responses, although Gallup is only charting those 3. For instance, in 2002, cancer was considered to be the highest concern by many (probably because there wasn't any debate about health care policy at the time). And that 2006 point (actually late 2005) was during a year when we had many news stories about flu vaccine shortages, and therefore those answering "flu" as the biggest problem rise at the expense of other answers.

It's not like the question asks "which of these IS a problem", it instead asks you to pick one as the biggest problem at that moment, which will vary according to what was in the news that week.

Posted by: vvf2 | November 18, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Flood of propaganda?

Posted by: JkR- | November 18, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Certainly a flood of propaganda.

Back in 1990, government spent $225 billion on health care, and in early 1991 we see virtually no one was concerned about access. This year, it will spend an estimated $1,107 billion. That's an 8.3% annual rate of growth. Somehow access is now a problem for 1/4 of the population.

Posted by: justin84 | November 18, 2010 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Why? Because the question is mostly measuring "non-opinions," or fabricated responses that have little to do with personal perceptions of what is after all an immensely complex and abstract entity--"the health care system"--and that instead records what is being talked about most in the public arena.

Posted by: bmoodie | November 18, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Until around 2008, concern with access does appear to track with recessions somewhat, but it's a negative correlation-- as the economy gets better people say they're more concerned with access. That seems to support the premise of this recent New Yorker article: --basically that in good economic times voters are more concerned with social welfare aspects of health care (access) but in bad times people feel we can't afford it. Since most of us have insurance, during recessions the concern is cost.

It's not a direct correlation though, so I guess there are other things going on. Like one of the other commenters suggested, public opinion is probably more shaped but whatever was in the news that week-- but again, during a recession in a given week you're probably more likely to see people in the news talking about how we can't afford to expand the safety net.

Posted by: whatifpost | November 18, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

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