Senate negotiators moved a step closer to a comprehensive health care package this week, but the American public seems increasingly wary of what "reform" might mean. The latest polls show that the majority of Americans are satisfied with their own health insurance and are now worried that they might be the big losers once Washington starts meddling. And for all the talk about the uninsured in the current health debate, the most important constituency in determining whether a health care package passes Congress may turn out to be the happily insured.
According to the latest Rasmussen poll on the topic, 80 percent of Americans who already have health insurance rate their coverage as good or excellent. But it isn't just the Rasmussen poll that finds Americans generally happy with their own coverage. A similar poll by the Washington Post/ABC poll in June found that 81 percent of Americans were somewhat or very satisfied with their insurance, and an even higher proportion -- 83 percent -- felt the same way about the health care they receive.
We sometimes forget that the overwhelming majority of Americans -- over 250 million people -- already have health insurance of one sort or another. Any "reform" that reduces the range of services and choices available to the already insured or taxes their benefits will leave this group worse off than they are now. Yet these are precisely the kinds of cost-saving measures Congress must pass if coverage is to be extended to approximately 15 percent of Americans who don't have health care coverage now.
As members of Congress return home for the August recess, they are likely to encounter stiff opposition from constituents worried that health care reform will come at too dear a cost: higher taxes and worse care. Rowdy town hall meetings with elected officials in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texas and other states have scared Democrats so much that they're now trying to blame the GOP for inciting the opposition.
President Obama's response has been to send out e-mails to 13 million people accusing those who question Democrats' health care plans of "filling the airwaves and the Internet with outrageous falsehoods to scare people into opposing change," and urging supporters "to fight lies with truth, and set the record straight."
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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