Americans willing to fund healthcare reform: poll

WASHINGTON Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:49am EDT

A supporter of the health care reform holds a sign outside a health care town hall meeting in Miami, Florida September 3, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A supporter of the health care reform holds a sign outside a health care town hall meeting in Miami, Florida September 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Most Americans would pay higher taxes to fund healthcare reforms that provide the best quality of care, but only a minority expects Washington to deliver it, according to a survey released on Wednesday.

The telephone survey of 3,003 U.S. adults conducted by Thomson Reuters found 63 percent willing to pay for healthcare reform, though most also said they are happy with their own doctors, insurance plans and out-of-pocket costs.

However, only 35 percent of those surveyed said President Barack Obama's reform agenda and the debate in Congress will lead to better health service, while 41 percent said they would expect it to lead to lower costs.

"There's skepticism that the government can deliver value," said Gary Pickens, chief research officer for Thomson Reuters' healthcare and science research business. Thomson Reuters is the parent company of global news agency Reuters.

"But underlying this is a fairly strong belief that people are entitled to the best healthcare," Pickens added. "This is a value statement: that people are entitled not just to good but to the best healthcare. And people are willing to pay for it."

The survey began September 8, the day before Obama sought to jump-start the congressional debate with a prime-time speech to lawmakers. Researchers wound up their polling on September 17. The findings have a 2 percent margin of error.

The survey period also followed a summer of rancorous debate in Washington and angry exchanges between healthcare reform advocates and adversaries at political town hall meetings across the country.

The survey showed that 76 percent of those polled believe Americans deserve the best healthcare. But only 43 percent said they actually receive it.

Readiness to pay for effective reform crossed party lines, with 78 percent of Democrats willing to accept higher taxes, as well as 64 percent of independents and 48 percent of Republicans.

Expectations split sharply with party affiliation. Seventy-two percent of Democrats but only 35 percent of independents and 12 percent of Republicans expected the reforms to drive down costs.

Sixty-six percent of Democrats said reform will bring better healthcare service, versus 29 percent of independents and 8 percent of Republicans.

And 77 percent said they were satisfied with their doctors, 68 percent with their health insurance coverage and 53 percent with out-of-pocket expenses.

(Editing by Maggie Fox and Paul Simao)