Survey: Healthcare reform less valuable than pizza

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As President Obama heads Wednesday to suburban Virginia to sell his healthcare plan to the public, he got some sobering news from a new poll showing the majority of Americans aren’t willing to chip in even the cost of a weekly cheese pizza to fund reform.

A new Quinnipiac University national poll finds that a slim plurality of voters would pay more to reform the healthcare system – 49 percent who would versus 45 percent who wouldn't. But of those willing to pay more to reform healthcare, 72 percent did not want to pay more than $500 a year.

A low budget for reform

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“Seven out of 10 voters aren’t willing to chip in what amounts to the price of a cheese pizza per week – without extra toppings – to finance an overhaul,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. “Opposition to paying any additional taxes ranges from 40 percent among lower-paid voters to 52 percent among those making more than $100,000 year.”

That weak level of support is a major challenge for the Obama administration and one reason the president is traveling to Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale for a town-hall meeting. The White House will take questions for the session from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The forum will be moderated by senior White House adviser and long-time Obama friend Valerie Jarrett.

Government plan not for me

The Quinnipiac pollsters found that 69 percent of voters say Americans should have the option of selecting government-run health insurance. Mr. Obama’s support for a public option has run into strong opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who see it as a violation of their free-market philosophy.

The fact that nearly 7 in 10 Americans support a government health insurance option does not mean they would use it. In the Quinnipiac poll, only 28 percent said they would choose to be covered by a government plan, calling into question how deep their support for a public option is.

“American voters want their fellow countrymen to have the option of a public plan, but don’t want a public plan for themselves because they are personally satisfied with their healthcare,” Brown said. “That presents a challenge to those who want Americans to pay more to reform the system.”

Don't tax my health benefits

Those surveyed by Quinnipiac overwhelmingly oppose a new tax on healthcare benefits to pay for reforms, by an overwhelming 63 to 30 percent margin. The portion of healthcare insurance premiums paid by employers currently is not subject to tax, a major tax break.

The poll was conducted June 23-29. Some 3,063 voters nationwide were surveyed, and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

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