Californians Dislike the State’s Employer-Based Insurance System

Published November 1, 2007

Polls asking California voters their views of the state’s health care system suggest growing support for replacing the current employer-based health insurance system with a government program. Experts say the results simply reflect widespread dissatisfaction with the current system.

In December 2006, the Field Research Corporation–a nonpartisan research group based in San Francisco–found 24 percent of California’s registered voters supported replacing the current health care system with a new state government-run system covering everyone, while 18 percent favored relying on free-market competition.

When the same question was asked in August 2007, 36 percent of voters said they support switching to a state government-run system, while 33 percent prefer a shared-responsibilities approach and 14 percent prefer the free-market approach.

Prejudicial Questions

The problem with the poll, said Richard Ralston, executive director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, a national nonprofit, nonpartisan research group based in Newport Beach, California, is the premise of the questions.

“It is not hard to get people to say they like the idea of someone else–anyone else–being responsible for supplying them with health care,” Ralston explained.

Level of Satisfaction with California’s Health Care System
  December 2006 August 2007
Satisfied 51% 28%
Very satisfied 13% 7%
Somewhat satisfied 38% 21%
Dissatisfied 44% 69%
Somewhat dissatisfied 24% 27%
Very dissatisfied 20% 42%
No opinion 5% 3%
Source: The Field Poll

He continued, “But they might respond differently to the question, ‘Do you accept responsibility for paying for everyone else’s health care–no matter how much health care they need or want, or how much it costs?’ or ‘Do you want to place your health care under the control of a government system with no choices, no options, and no place else to go?'”

Despairing Voters

“The survey might have asked how many people think we should get rid of an employer-based system and replace it with individually owned, portable insurance policies that they could take from job to job or from state to state, paid for with dollars not taxed by state or federal governments,” Ralston said.

“It’s obvious that a number of Californians are willing to consider any option–including government-run health care that will result in higher taxes and a rationing of care–as an alternative to our current system,” said John Kabateck, executive director of the California chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

“They’re grasping at anything, primarily because our leaders haven’t allowed for a thoughtful debate on affordability that will let people evaluate all options,” Kabateck continued.

Judi E. Loomis ([email protected]) writes from Indiana.