But while Americans seem to want some kind of reform, most have no idea what kind. A 2007 Gallup Poll showed more than half of Americans support every suggested health care reform, from the most market‐oriented policies to total government control, even when those policies were mutually exclusive. More than half of voters said yes to a government‐run single‐payer system. But an even larger majority – more than 77 percent – favored “reducing government regulation of insurance.”
Poll numbers seem to argue in favor of proposals for a radical overhaul of the system, but candidates should be wary of going too far – particularly if their proposals appear to threaten the insurance coverage people have today. Because while voters are critical of the system as a whole, they tend to be much happier with their own care. Another Gallup Poll, taken last December, shows that 88 percent of Americans believe the quality of their own care is “good” or “excellent,” and 70 percent believe the same of their own insurance coverage.
According to Gallup, roughly 81 percent of voters support a requirement that employers provide health insurance to their workers — a proposal supported by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Yet 86 percent want to do away with employment as a prerequisite for health insurance, along the lines of a proposal by Republican nominee John McCain. Two‐thirds also agree with McCain’s call for a health care tax credit, but 77 percent agree with Obama that we should increase subsidies for low‐income Americans to help buy insurance, and 54 percent would repeal the Bush tax cuts to do it.
Voters are saying that almost anything is better than the status quo. The candidates offer very different visions of the direction that reform should take, but in the broadest sense, both seek similar outcomes. Both would increase the number of insured Americans (though both would fall short of universal coverage). And both seek to reduce the cost of health insurance and overall health care spending. Significantly, in fact, both make cost control the highest priority of their plans.