At Health Summit, Democrats Should Emphasize That The Public Supports Many Elements Of Health Reform

Our guest blogger is Emma Sandoe, a Health Care Researcher at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

AP060118040801The headlines from a poll released yesterday by the Zogby International-University of Texas Health Science Center indicate that the public wants Congress to start over with health care reform and take a step-by-step or incremental approach. The GOP has begun to put together their strategy for next week’s bipartisan health care summit and will undoubtedly cite the headlines of these polls as justifying their calls to start the legislative process over.

But looking deeper at the responses reveals that once again the public agrees with the core elements of reform, but is frustrated with the political process. So what Democrats need to do is explain the core elements of health reform to the public without resorting to the same rhetorical strategies that have been used all year. The White House must capitalize on the President’s ability to effectively convey the complexity of the legislation and the problems of the GOP approach, while Democrats should emphasize these findings from yesterday’s poll:

Most think competent health care must be comprehensive and coordinated (54.9 percent), cost-effective (47.9 percent), and controlled by patient choices (47.1 percent). The bills make great strides in improving coordinated care, giving individuals more options for coverage, and preventing medical bankruptcy.

54.5 percent believe employers should be required to offer coverage. The employer mandate is in the House bill and a weaker “free-rider” provision is in the final Senate bill.

Ideas in the bills are popular such as eliminating the pre-existing condition exclusion (64.7 percent), paying doctors for the quality of care, standardized forms and paperwork (77.3 percent), the health insurance exchange, preventing women from being charged more for coverage (68.4 percent), and promoting prevention and wellness (64.3 percent).

More Americans (53.1 percent) believe health care is a human right. A core element of the presidential campaign was this very question. The Democrats must argue they disagree with Republicans on this core philosophical question.

As Princeton health economist, Uwe Reinhardt told the National Health Policy Conference “the White House needs to do a much better job of explaining reform to the public.” The summit can give the White House the opportunity to do just that. And this will be most effective if there is a unified focus on the core aspects of the bill rather than attention on the internal conflicts over details of the excise tax, abortion, and the public option.

The public has seen this debate play out publicly over the past year and it hasn’t helped Democrats in the polls. Republicans will attempt to capitalize on these internal disagreements, but Democrats should focus on the core concepts, which are in the bill, that the public wants.