Two-Thirds in U.S. Back Health Insurance Mandate


Most Americans favor a continuation of the employer-based health insurance system and say that they believe health insurance costs should be shared among individuals, employers, and the government, according to the results of a survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund.

More than two-thirds of Americans who took part would favor a mandate for individuals to obtain health insurance in an effort to provide universal health coverage.

These findings indicate that on certain health reform issues Americans' views may be more closely aligned with the proposals put forth by Democratic candidates for president than those outlined by Republicans.

For example, the leading Democratic candidates would require employers to offer health coverage to employees or pay for part of their coverage, while most of the Republican candidates are proposing changes to the tax code that could potentially reduce the role of employers in the health insurance market, according to a Commonwealth Fund analysis.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) would support an individual insurance mandate, while Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) would mandate coverage for all children.

Among all the Republican candidates, no one is proposing an individual insurance mandate, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

From June to October 2007, the Commonwealth Fund conducted a telephone survey of 3,501 adults aged 19 years and older as part of its biennial health insurance survey. The group released the results from four health reform queries before they announced the other findings, which are scheduled to be released in March.

The survey respondents expressed broad support for an employer-based system of health insurance coverage. About 81% of respondents said that employers should either provide health insurance or contribute to a fund in order to cover all Americans. Support for this idea among respondents was high regardless of political affiliation, race, gender, age, and income.

The support for an individual insurance mandate to ensure coverage for all was lower; 68% of the respondents said that they strongly or somewhat favor a requirement that all individuals obtain health insurance. About 25% said they strongly or somewhat opposed the idea. About 7% said they didn't know, or refused to answer.

When respondents were asked who should pay for health insurance for all Americans, 66% favored a system in which costs would be shared by individuals, employers, and the government. About 15% said it should be mostly government financed, 8% said it should be paid for mostly by employers, and 6% favored having individuals pick up the tab. Another 5% said they didn't know, or refused to answer.

The survey also indicated that the candidates' views on health care reform will be important in determining votes. About 86% of the respondents said that health care reform is very or somewhat important in determining their vote.

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