[Posted by Karl]
Opponents of government-run healthcare have been called stupid, and mobs of extremists, but the Wall Street Journal’s Jerry Seib adds that they are crazy:
I hate the health-care system — but don’t you dare mess with it.
That’s a pretty apt summary of the American mind-set about health care — and not just now, but for decades. Something about health care calls forth from the national psyche a deep, almost inexplicable schizophrenia, as the latest, delayed effort to “reform” health care is showing President Barack Obama and the rest of Washington.
Indeed, the quest to fix health care has bedeviled every president since Harry Truman. Arguably, only one — Lyndon Johnson, when he oversaw the birth of Medicare — succeeded in making a real dent. Mr. Obama and Congress have, of course, spent much of the summer agonizing over how to alter the system, but this week lawmakers will head home for an August recess without having passed anything in either the House or Senate, largely because of public anxieties.
This seems counterintuitive. People know the system is creaking, frustrating and way too expensive. They complain about it all the time. Yet they can’t quite let it go.
Seib then offers five factors with cutesy names that explain why he thinks most Americans do not seem keen on ObamaCare. Unfortunately, Seib’s piece is based on an almost total misunderstanding of what Americans think about the healthcare system and supposed reform.
Frank Newport recently compiled a summary of ten key elements of American public opinion on healthcare reform, based on a review of Gallup’s latest survey research as of the week of July 27-31. Of these ten elements, four seem most relevant to the discussion. First, contrary to Seib, most Americans do not believe that the US healthcare system is in a state of crisis. Second, contrary to Seib, most Americans are satisfied with their current medical care and access to healthcare — and thus are not convinced that healthcare reform will benefit them personally. Third, Americans do not believe that healthcare reform would lessen costs — neither for the system as a whole nor for individuals. Fourth, Americans have little confidence that Congress can effectively and efficiently reform the country’s massive healthcare system. At least Seib got that last one right, calling it “The Post Office Factor.”
In short, it turns out that we do not need armchair psychoanalysis from a Beltway columnist to figure out what Americans think about healthcare reform and related issues. Indeed, public opinion on these issues has remained essentially unchanged since the last time Democrats tried healthcare reform in 1993-94. If Jerry Seib is looking for crazy people, he might want to start with the people who deluded themselves into thinking the public was demanding a government takeover of the US healthcare system.