Idea of healthcare overhaul gets wide support

WASHINGTON Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:05pm BST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system remains popular even though Americans are not enamoured with the law that President Barack Obama signed in 2010, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

The poll found that 44 percent of respondents favour the law, and that an additional 21 percent oppose it because it doesn't go far enough - for a total of 65 percent.

The rest, 35 percent, said they oppose the law and major changes to healthcare generally.

"People still very much hunger for something to fix the healthcare system," said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson.

The poll results arrive as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to strike down the law's mandate that most Americans have health insurance. The court heard a third day of argument on Wednesday and is likely to issue a decision by late June.

If the court strikes down all or part of the measure, lawmakers would be left to sort through fallback options in a highly polarized political atmosphere ahead of the November 6 general election in which Obama seeks a second term.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online March 23-28 and is based on answers from 1,953 Americans.

The data were weighted to the U.S. population by factors such as gender and age. The poll is precise to plus or minus 2.6 percentage points, based on a measure that statisticians call a credibility interval.

Jackson said the responses echo the findings of other polls.

"There's wide recognition that the system, if not necessarily broken, is breaking. It's just that once you get down to specifics, that coalition of people who want to change the system breaks down," he said.

The United States ranks first in spending on healthcare but 27th in life expectancy and 31st in health coverage, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Annual healthcare spending totals $2.6 trillion, equal to 17.9 percent of U.S. annual gross domestic product, or $8,402 for every man, woman and child, said the Paris-based group in a report on the health standards of its 34 members released in November.

DEEP PARTISAN DIFFERENCES

The 2010 healthcare overhaul law is designed to make health insurance nearly universal through a combination of the mandate, government programs and subsidies.

The U.S. partisan divide is sharp on the subject of healthcare, the poll found. A large majority of Democrats, 72 percent, said they favour the law, while 86 percent of Republicans said they oppose it.

Self-identified independents split, with 55 percent in opposition and 45 percent in favour.

Neither party has command of the healthcare issue, according to the poll. Asked who they "trust the most to make sure that all Americans have access to quality healthcare," 46 percent chose "none of these" or "don't know."

The options were Obama (14 percent), Democrats in Congress (9 percent), Republicans in Congress (7 percent), pharmaceutical companies (1 percent), insurers (6 percent) and doctors and other health practitioners (18 percent).

"All of the actors in Washington have lost credibility, if they had it in the first place, on this issue," Jackson said.

(Editing by Howard Goller and Xavier Briand)

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