Study: Ditch reform, add public option

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In poll after poll, calls for repealing the new health insurance law get strong support. But if the law were repealed, an Indiana University survey released this week shows that Americans want a surprising thing in its place: a public option.

The IU Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research found that 58 percent of Americans want to repeal the law that President Obama signed on March 23.

In addition, nearly half of Americans want Congress to focus on health issues—more than on any other single issue—when its members return from their spring recess.

But the surprising result is that 67 percent of Americans say it's important for Congress to work on “establishment of a public option that would give individuals a choice between government-provided health insurance or private health insurance.”

That idea even got 67 percent of respondents who identified themselves as Republicans.

“I was shocked at how many people said it was important,” said Dr. Aaron Carroll, director of the IU center. He added, “Some of the people who are saying ‘repeal,’ it might just be dissatisfaction with the bill. Why people are really dissatisfied is another question. It’s something we’re definitely wanting to explore further.”

One group especially ardent for both repeal and the public option are young people. Among those 18-34 years old, 71 percent support repeal and 70 percent said the establishment of a public option is important.

The new law would allow young people to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26 or buy bare-bones catastrophic coverage until age 30. And presumably, many young people will be among the low-income households that receive subsidies to buy health insurance.

But the new law also would tax anyone who fails to buy private health insurance—a bill that will likely fall on young people who often rely on their good health rather than pay for coverage.

The public option was part of the health reform bills first introduced in Congress last year, but it was removed in order to win support from moderate Democratic legislators. No Republicans voted for the final versions of health insurance reform.

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