Public Favors ‘Universal’ Care—If it’s Free

Published August 1, 2009

Americans are divided over so-called universal health care, a CNN/Opinion Research poll shows, with far fewer favoring the proposal when informed they will have to help pay for its implementation.

According to the poll, 63 percent of Americans favor federally funded, universal health care. Just under 50 percent of the same survey sample said they did not support an increase in their taxes to fund such a venture.

“This very clearly shows something many of us already knew: People will favor anything that sounds good as long as they don’t think they will have to pay for it,” said Devon Herrick, a senior fellow and health care economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis.

“The missing half of the health care debate is just how these wonderful-sounding benefits like ‘universal coverage’ and ‘improved access to care’ will be paid for,” Herrick continued. “Nothing in life is free—let alone state-of-the-art health care like we have in America. All too often, though, people simply don’t recognize that without being told.”

Above-Average Polling

“This is an example of a survey that actually takes the time to ask the deeper question of ‘do you still want this even if you have to pay for it, rather than somehow getting it for free?'” said Greg Scandlen, director of Consumers for Health Care Choices at The Heartland Institute. “Most pollsters ask a simple question like ‘do you support everyone having health insurance?’ and leave it at that. Sure, people will say, ‘You betcha!’

“Public opinion on this issue is very malleable,” Scandlen added. “Much of the public’s support [for universal health care] changes when people get more information.”

Katie Emanuel ([email protected]) writes from Georgia.

For more information …

“Majority Favors Universal Coverage” (CNN/Opinion Research):