BOSTON (Reuters) - Only half as many Republicans as Democrats want to expand health insurance coverage for the uninsured, according to a survey in states holding early contests to choose party candidates for the U.S. presidential election.
“There are huge differences between Republicans and Democrats on what should be done to improve health care,” said Robert Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health and the chief author of the survey, which was conducted in early November.
The growing number of uninsured Americans and runaway health costs have emerged as a potent issue in the presidential election. The Bush administration, members of Congress and private groups have offered proposals, but with few results.
The telephone survey of 508 likely Republican voters and 674 likely Democratic voters in states holding presidential primaries or caucuses in January and February was conducted by Harvard and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
It showed Republicans were more interested in reducing the costs of health care and health insurance and with improving the quality of care than they were about expanding insurance coverage to the uninsured, which was ranked the most important health care issue by Democrats.
The survey showed 27 percent of Republicans wanted to keep the health care system as it is, with 23 percent looking for a new system that would provide health insurance for the uninsured, even if that meant a substantial increase in spending.
The majority of Republicans, 42 percent, wanted a less ambitious plan that would only cover some of the uninsured, according to the survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
In contrast, 65 percent of Democrats were willing to pay extra for universal coverage and only 22 percent preferred a scaled-down plan. Just 8 percent of Democrats wanted to keep the health insurance system the way it is.
The survey had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.
It also found that voters from both parties said they would not pick a candidate solely based on the candidates’ opinions on hot-button topics such as abortion and federal funding for stem cell research.
Editing by David Storey