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Americans want to be able to get health insurance - not be forced to have it

Maryalene LaPonsie | December 29, 2010

According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Survey, a majority of Americans support health reform provisions that open medical insurance coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions and serious illnesses. However, at the same time, many oppose an attempt by the government to mandate that they carry health insurance. The poll highlights a disconnect between what Main Street America wants and what Washington thinks it needs.

In addition, the survey found that a majority of respondents indicate that they still oppose health reform despite efforts by the Obama Administration to promote its benefits for seniors and children.

One nation…divided by health reform

While some argue that health reform is unneeded and un-American, people on both sides of the aisle agree that the current system is flawed, if not flat out broken. Those who are most desperate for medical coverage - generally people with chronic health conditions - are most likely to be unable to find a health plan willing to cover them.

It is here that most Americans think the government should step in. The majority of those polled in the CNN survey favored provisions that prevented health insurance companies from dropping seriously ill members or denying enrollment to those with pre-existing conditions. However, when it comes to actually requiring everyone to have medical coverage, the numbers flip flop.

Among the poll results:

  • Of poll respondents, 64 percent favor prohibiting health insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions while 61 percent favor prohibitions against dropping coverage for seriously ill individuals.
  • Only 38 percent of those surveyed favor the health insurance mandate, and 60 percent are opposed.
  • Overall, 43 percent favor health reform as a whole. Of the 54 percent who oppose it, 37 percent say the reforms are too liberal while 13 percent say they are not liberal enough.
  • Opposition to health reform is greatest in the South with the Northeast reporting the greatest percentage - 49 percent - of those in favor of reform.
  • Not surprisingly, those who favor the Tea Party movement overwhelming report being opposed to health reform.

Can't have one without the other

According to the powers that be, the only way to get to the point where no one is denied health insurance coverage is to require everyone to have health insurance. It all goes back to the economics of health insurance companies. For a private health insurance company to make enough money to stay in business, it needs to charge premiums that will cover medical expenses plus payroll for employees plus enough to pay the bills and keep on the lights. Right now, many companies do that by limiting the number of critically ill patients they cover. Premiums from healthier subscribers offset the medical costs for those with expensive conditions. This approach ensures that affordable health insurance remains available.

However, if companies are required to insure everyone who is sick without the benefit of premiums from healthier individuals who are unlikely to make a claim, the proverbial ship would begin to sink. And so, Washington says, 'Health insurance for all!" Is that fair? Sixty percent of Americans say no.

Tags : health insurance mandate, health reform, health insurance companies, pre existing conditions

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