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Health care top domestic concern: poll

President Bush makes remarks on health care initiatives at the American Hospital Association annual meeting in Washington in this May 1, 2006 file photo. Access to affordable health care is the top domestic concern among Americans and a majority say the government should guarantee health insurance to every American, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Thursday. REUTERS/Jason Reed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Access to affordable health care is the top domestic concern among Americans and a majority say the U.S. government should guarantee health insurance to every American, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released on Thursday.

While the war in Iraq remains the top overall issue among Americans, health care is the No. 1 concern on the domestic agenda, ranked as far more important than immigration, cutting taxes or promoting traditional values, the poll said.

Nearly two-thirds said the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans and half said they would be willing to pay as much as $500 more in taxes a year for universal coverage, it said.

Only 24 percent said they were satisfied with President George W. Bush’s handling of the issue, despite his recent initiatives, and 62 percent said Democrats -- not Republicans -- were more likely to improve the health-care system.

Looking ahead to the 2008 presidential campaign, 36 percent said they had confidence in the ability of Democratic contender Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York to “make the right decisions on health care,” while 49 percent said they were uneasy about it, according to the poll.

Clinton retained the confidence of nearly six in 10 Democrats on the issue, despite the politically devastating collapse 13 years ago of the national health initiative she helped develop early in her husband’s presidency, it said.

Nearly 47 million Americans, or more than 15 percent of the population, go without health insurance, up 6.8 million since 2000.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, another Democratic presidential candidate, recently unveiled a plan that would require everyone to have insurance and require employers to provide it or pay into a fund that would do so. Nearly four in 10 polled said that was a good idea; nearly half said they were unsure.

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Friday through Tuesday with 1,281 adults, and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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