Public Policy Forum Blog

People Speak: Citizens concerned about health care costs and reform

The latest edition of the People Speak poll finds Milwaukee area citizens are concerned about health care costs in general, as well as the costs of the new health care reform law.

Of the 436 residents polled in early November, a majority (62%) agree with Wisconsin joining 25 other states in challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law. Residents do not seem to base their support on uneasiness with the mandate that individuals be required to have at least minimum insurance coverage, however. In fact, 64% say they favor a requirement of this type. Support for the individual mandate drops to 42% when the question is rephrased to include a hypothetical tax increase to cover the costs for those who cannot afford insurance on their own, indicating concerns about the cost of the law may factor into support for the legal challenge.

These concerns about the cost of reform may reflect respondents' personal situations. A majority (64%) say they are very or somewhat worried that they will not be able to pay their medical bills in the event of a serious illness in the future, although just 23% say that cost has prevented them from seeing a doctor for a medical problem in the past 12 months. Of these 101 respondents who have skipped a doctor visit in the past year due to cost, almost half (47%) report having employer-provided insurance.

Other findings:
  • The 64% of respondents in favor of requiring all Americans to have at least minimum health insurance includes 80% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans.
  • While 67% of respondents overall agree that states should be allowed to opt out of the federal health care reform law and devise their own health care coverage systems, 92% of Republicans and 42% of Democrats agree.
  • Almost half (48%) of respondents favor guaranteeing health care for every American, even if it doesn't do much to control health care costs.
  • On the whole, however, health care is not at the top of people's minds when asked to name the most important issue facing the Milwaukee region. Just 2% said "health" or "health care" is the top issue, while 47% said "jobs" or "unemployment" is most important.

The People Speak poll is a tracking poll conducted three times per year in partnership with the Center for Urban Initiatives and Research at the University of Milwaukee and The Business Journal Serving Greater Milwaukee. Full results of the November 2011 poll and all previous polls can be found at the People Speak website.

Anneliese Dickman