By Melissa Attias
Making health care more affordable is one of the American public’s top priorities, falling second only to economic recovery, Democratic and Republican pollsters told a health policy conference.
“Sixty-two percent of voters say the economic crisis makes it more important than ever to take on health care reform,” Joel Benenson, lead pollster and senior strategist for the Obama campaign, said Tuesday at the National Health Policy Conference, an annual event sponsored by the policy journal Health Affairs and AcademyHealth, an association of health services researchers.
President Obama and Democratic lawmakers also have said that overhauling the health care system is critical to the nation’s economic recovery. The economic stimulus package now under consideration in the Senate includes billions for health care spending on items such as Medicaid funding for states, health care information technology and prevention.
In his remarks, Benenson also referred to Kaiser Family Foundation data that shows one in three voters currently postpones care because of high costs, even though most have insurance.
“Cost trumps coverage in voters’ minds,” Benenson said. “Bringing down costs is the greatest concern.”
Republican pollster Glen Bolger, partner and co-founder of Public Opinion Strategies, said the majority of Americans are optimistic that Obama will be successful in making health care more affordable.
According to Bolger’s data, voters only expressed more confidence in Obama’s chances of improving relations with U.S. allies.
Despite their confidence in Obama, both pollsters said many Americans are nervous that health care overhaul may actually worsen their coverage. Benenson said most voters are equally as anxious about changing the health care system as they are hopeful that an overhaul will improve their situation, while Bolger noted that most Americans today are conservative and therefore apprehensive of change.
“I think the biggest challenge the administration will face is pushing the end of the envelope without people thinking that they will make things worse,” Bolger said.