More than three out of every four Americans feel it is important to have a “choice” between a government-run health care insurance option and private coverage, according to a public opinion poll released on Thursday.

A new study by SurveyUSA puts support for a public option at a robust 77 percent, one percentage point higher than where it stood in June.

Washington Post:

On Wednesday, [Grassley] denied those claims and fired back at Obama, saying the president should publicly state his willingness to sign a bill without a controversial government-run insurance plan.

CBS News:

As doubts have grown about some of the more controversial parts of Mr. Obama’s plans, such as the government-sponsored insurance option

Analysts say that controversial elements like the public option may well be in jeopardy as members of the public voice their discontent with that and other issues at town hall meetings

Denver Post:

But judging by the 30 or so questions, the surprise of the night was the support for some of the legislation’s most controversial elements — a public health insurance option among them.

WCBS New York:

But during the Sunday talk shows, key aides hinted that the controversial public health option, similar to Medicare but designed to force private insurers to compete for business, may come off the table

Sacramento Bee:

He noted, however, that he was expressing his personal opinion, and CalPERS has not yet issued a formal position on the controversial public plan option.

Philadelphia Inquirer:

A “public option” is among the more controversial proposals. In short, it would set up a government-run insurance plan to compete with commercial plans.

The fact that media outlets across the country are describing a proposal that has the support of 3/4 of Americans as “controversial” tells you everything you need to know about the influence that corporate special interests have over our political landscape. It actually reminds me of how the media has long referred to medical marijuana laws as controversial, even though the right for people to use it has long had overwhelming support across the country.

Along those same lines, I’d be willing to bet that there’s something analogous to this within the health care/public option debate as well:

Every time medical marijuana has been on a state or local ballot it has passed overwhelmingly — most recently by 83 percent to 17 percent in Burlington, Vermont this March 2. State and national polls consistently show support levels ranging from 60 percent up to 80 percent or higher. This support comes from virtually all segments of the electorate: Young and old, liberal, and conservative, rich and poor, Republican, Democrat or independent.

Yet politicians remain, for the most part, scared to death of the issue. Efforts to pass medical marijuana bills through state legislatures have had surprisingly tough going, considering the overwhelming public support they enjoy. Successful efforts, such as the bill passed and signed into law in Maryland last year, have sometimes required painful compromises that limit the protection given to patients.

Asked if they support legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients, the results from voters in both states were consistent with previous polling: 71 percent yes to 21 percent no in Vermont, and 69 percent yes to 26 percent no in Rhode Island.

But the new poll added a question that has not often been asked: “Regardless of your own opinion, do you think the majority of people in [Vermont or Rhode Island] support making marijuana medically available, or do you think the majority opposes making marijuana medically available?”

The result was that most of the people surveyed greatly underestimated how widespread the support was from their fellow citizens. I’d bet that you’d find the exact same dynamic with the public option. The media’s treatment of the subject greatly skews the reality of what the American public generally believes.

The bigger question to me is whether progressive politicians who seem to play along with the fake controversy are doing it because they’re naively buying into the false premise of it being controversial or if they do it because the cover provided by the fake controversy allows them to keep special interests happy.


  1. 1

    Lurleen spews:

    Just like the repeal of DADT is apparently only “controversial” in Obama’s mind (the repeal being widely supported by even a majority of republicans). Perhaps what comes around goes around.

  2. 3

    voter spews:

    they do it because we, the progressives, never make them lose their jobs for failing to take on the right wing corporatist lies.
    instead we just reelect them and are satisfied with their nonperformance.

  3. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Competition doesn’t exist in most places, and even conservatives have a problem with that, according to the Associated Press.

    “WASHINGTON – One of the most widely accepted arguments against a government medical plan for the middle class is that it would quash competition — just what private insurers seem to be doing themselves in many parts of the U.S.

    “Several studies show that in lots of places, one or two companies dominate the market. Critics say monopolistic conditions drive up premiums paid by employers and individuals. …

    “Even lawmakers opposed to a government plan have problems with the growing clout of the big private companies. ‘There is a serious problem with the lack of competition among insurers,’ said Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the highest-cost states. ‘The impact on the consumer is significant.’ …

    “A study by the Urban Institute public policy center estimated that a public plan could save taxpayers from $224 billion to $400 billion over 10 years by lowering the cost of proposed subsidies for the uninsured, while preserving private coverage for most people. ‘Right now, there’s no incentive for insurers or big hospital groups to negotiate with each other, because they can pass higher payments on through premiums,’ said economist Linda Blumberg, co-author of the report.”

  4. 6

    sarah68 spews:

    Conservatives don’t want “competition” in the health insurance market because they don’t want to have government draining off profits from the private insurers. When they say “market forces” are best, they mean “We want to keep it to ourselves.”

    In Washington State we’ve got only three insurers in the individual insurance market. Do you think those companies want competition, which might drive their prices down? Nope. And there are only three left because the Insurance Commissioner now has the right to tell companies that they’re charging too much (and all the individual insurers charge too much because their customers are desperate), and he did so, and the others left the marketplace.

    As long as the profit motive is preeminent in health insurance, nothing will change. Importantly, as long as drug companies can charge whatever they wish, insurance companies are going to charge in order to cover those costs. The doctors and the hospitals really are not the ones driving the costs; it’s the pharmaceuticals. Look at the ads in magazines and on TV.

  5. 9

    Me spews:

    I seem to remember that several years ago Washington passed a law that would allow anyone and everyone with pre-existing conditions to sign up for health insurance. The law as I understand it, as passed, let people sign up with a condition and then drop the insurance after treatment (..and then sign up with a new problem). The insurance companies could not afford that and left Washington.

    It would be a good thing for full transparency of what Obama is proposing (which we have not had!)!

  6. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @7 I don’t suffer from your indecision and doubt. I’m 100% positive you’re leaning toward vapid.

  7. 11

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9 “Transparency” is the new wingnut talking point. Scripted in the GOP Noise Factory, it’s too big a word for neanderthals to dream up themselves. They merely repeat it on cue, with no idea of what it means. In fact, it means nothing, which is why it was chosen. But it looks good on cardboard signs, and as a slogan, is less embarassing to those waving it than “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!” Of course, the average wingnut wouldn’t know what to do with transparency if it hit him over the head. How many of them have ever read their own insurance policies? How transparent is the policy they get from Ripoff Insurance Co., Inc.? Does the fine print tell them RIC will arbitrarily deny them treatment, even if it’s for a covered illness and is not “experimental,” if RIC’s death panel decides it’s too expensive? Oops, there’s another one of those big words that has no meaning you can pin down — “experimental” … ! All insurance policies exclude “experimental” treatments. Do you wingnuts know what “experimental” means? The policy doesn’t say. It means, “anything our death panel decides will cost the company too much money.” Whoa! That’s not very transparent, is it? Bet you wingnuts didn’t know your insurance companies have death panels that will deny you treatment if your illness cuts into their profits too much. Not very transparent. So what’s your life worth to your insurance company? Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. They don’t publish that figure. Not very transparent, I’d say. But common sense suggests a formula that works like this: Amount of premiums you pay minus costs of doing business minus executive salaries minus the profit they want to make on your policy equals the amount of money left over that can be used for your medical care. If it must work that way, because if it doesn’t, they have no motivation to be in business. After all, they’re doing this to make money, not help their fellow citizens. That much, I’d say, is pretty damn transparent.

  8. 12

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    We don’t have news media in this country anymore. We do, however, have a thriving propaganda industry. Well, maybe not quite so thriving; but not to worry, the well of financial subsidy for rightwing propaganda is bottomless and will never dry up as long as we have regressive taxation and monopoly markets.

  9. 13

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Speaking of “death panels,” why on earth should some 85-year-old guy with 6 months to live get a $500,000 liver transplant? Isn’t it kind of selfish to expect that? If everyone got that, what would that do to the cost of health insurance? Isn’t this a big part of what the healthbaggers are upset about — don’t they want to be assured that no expense will be spared to prolong their lives for a few more weeks or months even if they haven’t paid enough premiums over their lives to pay for it? In other words, isn’t it true that what these gun-totin’, sign-wavin’, shoutin’ healthbaggers want is to make freeloading off other policyholders an entitlement?

  10. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    See, the way this works is, the Taking Class figgers if the government runs the insurance program they’ll have to help pay for it, whereas if private companies run it, they can make the other policyholders pay for it.

  11. 15

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Quote of the Day

    “You know, last time I checked, pharmaceutical companies don’t make a lot of money.”

    — Michael Bloomberg, quoted in Time magazine

    Roger Rabbit Commentary: He’s right, you know — Big Pharma’s profit margins typically are in the range of 8% to 12%, about par for large corporations. But this doesn’t mean they invest a lot of money in research. They don’t. Established drug companies’ R & D spending is even lower than their profits, around 4% to 6%. So when you pay monopoly prices for drugs where does all the money go? Well, the answer will be apparent once you understand that big drug companies are marketing organizations, not R & D organizations. Over half of all drug company revenue goes for marketing — expensive TV and magazine ads, and armies of sales reps.

    Why should drugs be marketed at all? Why should companies spend one cent on persuading people to take prescription drugs? Drugs don’t have to be marketed — if you get sick, and your doctor prescribes a medication, and you pick it up at the pharmacy on your way out of the clinic, isn’t that the only marketing that drugs should need or have?

    You could cut the price of drugs in half simply by letting doctors describing who will take them, and when. And why not? After all, shouldn’t that be a medical decision, not a marketing decision? Shouldn’t decisions about drug use be made by doctors, not advertising guys? It doesn’t make any sense that somewhere between 50% and 70% of what we pay for medications goes for marketing efforts aimed at persuading us to take them.

  12. 16

    Me spews:

    Roger Rabbit has again proved himself nonsensical as a a rabbit with his extended comment at #11. Talk about transparency in his comment; It does note exist!! Must be from eating Lee’s garden of the Merry Weed!

    Transparency in this case means trying to understand what our President is trying to get into law and then trying to understand why his Health Care proposals are an extreme emergency that had to be passed before the the August vacation of Congress!!

    All of the three proposed bills need to be fully documented and presented to our population in ‘powerpoint’ detail so we can agree upon the correct resolution!!

    And yes! – We have a representative government but in this case the folks in Congress need the support of their the folks they represent!!

  13. 17

    headless: Rat City Runcible Spoon spews:

    re 16: Can we compare the ‘Obama’ Plan to the Republican plan? You could jumpstart all the transparency issues by making it clear that there is no Republican plan — except to make the rich richer and everyone else poorer.

    Which raises the question of what’s in it for you?

  14. 18

    Blue collar libertarian spews:

    Hey rabbit you may want to try this article before you start chewing on about the hope for future. Ain’t nothing planned gonna solve this mess.

    “Almost two years ago, my father was killed by a hospital-borne infection in the intensive-care unit of a well-regarded nonprofit hospital in New York City.”

  15. 19

    ArtFart spews:

    @13 That’s kind of a specious argument, when used by either side. For someone that old, the decision not to attempt a massive heroic procedure like a liver or heart transplant is driven by the near-certainty that such a patient is actually suffering multiple system failure and would end up going straight from the OR to the morgue.

  16. 20

    manoftruth spews:

    it’s actually kind of funny that all you ever talk about is healthcare. what ever happened to the banks, or the subprime mortgage meltdown, or iraq, (we lost according to harry reid), or afghanastan. you guy accused the healthbaggers of being organized but you all work from the same playbook.

  17. 21

    SeattleJew's Sockpuppet spews:

    @19 Death Panels ..Exist Now

    Every insurance companyalready has something of this sort.

    What is true in some OTHER countries .. their systems prohibit use of hospitals or doctors for certain procedures regardless of WHO pays. That seems unlikely to happen here especially since no one is proposing to nationalize our doctors.

    Liver transplants are a bad example because there is shortage of livers and the same “system” many here criticize for how it prioritizes use of those livers (eg you loose poitn sf you smoke marijuana) tries to aportion those livers based on need and chance of success.

    A better example may be the drug avastin. At about $250,000, this drug (discovered by colleagues of mine) does prolong life of cancer pts. by a few months. In some countries the drug is nto sold for these patients because the benefit is so small. Here in the US, if you have the funds you can buy it.

    I do not know if Avastin is covered by Medicare (I believe it is now bejinbg used to treat Teddy) but it is hard to imagine that any system we devise here would fully fund all drugs like that. Presumably, our system will allow for supplemental insurance or just plain rich folks buying what they want.

  18. 22

    Crusader spews:

    More HA nonsense. If the public option had 75% support, HR3200 would have already passed weeks ago. More delusional Democrats!

  19. 23

    delbert spews:

    Public Option – All the compassion of the IRS delivered with the efficiency of the DMV.

  20. 24

    delbert spews:

    Lee – In your usual style, you failed to read your own quoted material.

    Question 6 – the meat of the matter – has a 51% approval/43% disapproval rating. Which might make it a tad CONTROVERSIAL.

  21. 25

    Politically Incorrect spews:


    I appreciate your continuing effort to call attention to our insane laws regarding marijuana. It clearly is time to repeal the backward laws of the 1930’s and establish a sane and reasonable policy towards adult use of this substance.

  22. 26

    landslide landon spews:

    Complete idiot, revisionist historian and lying fool says:

    Much legislation of 1933’s Hundred Days was supported by Republicans in Congress

    Umm, 16 out of 25 supported it at the time….but by 1937, when it was about to be enacted one of Presidential candidate’s Alf Landons major platform goals was the elimination of SS

    “Presidential candidate” Alf Landon was not a pres candidate in 1937. He was already remote as a footnote.

    Not only was much Hundred Days legislation of 1933 supported by Republicans in Congress, it was designed by Republicans. TVA? Republican George Norris of Nebraska. The Bank Holiday and financial regulation? Almost totally the product of Hoover holdovers at the Dept of Treasury.

    Before y’all call me a lying fool, get a grip on your facts. When getting a grip fails, get Darryl or Lee or Torquemada Goldstein to whack my posts. It’s what they do best.

  23. 27


    Crusaider @ 22,

    “More HA nonsense. If the public option had 75% support, HR3200 would have already passed weeks ago. More delusional Democrats!”

    I know it is hard for you brain-damaged Wingdings to click on a link and actually look at the data, so here are the results for the SurveyUSA poll (Q#2):

    In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance….

    Extremely Important…..58%
    Quite Important…………..19%
    Not That Important………..7%
    Not At All Important…….15%
    Not Sure………………………….1%

  24. 28


    Delbert @ 24,

    “Lee – In your usual style, you failed to read your own quoted material.

    Question 6 – the meat of the matter – has a 51% approval/43% disapproval rating.”

    As usual, you fail the comprehension test.

    Lee’s post was explicitly about whether or not a government-administered choice in health insurance is controversial. That was Q#2; Q#6 was about preexisting conditions, small business mandates, government subsidies and raising taxes. None of these topics are substantively mentioned in Lee’s post.

  25. 29

    General Lee spews:

    Barack Obama … God’s gift to undeserving Republicans:

    Here’s another thing that didn’t work. (I write as if health-care reform or insurance reform or whatever it’s called this week is already a loss, a historic botch, because it is. Even if the White House wins, they lose, because the cost in terms of public trust and faith was too high.)

    - via Peggy Noonan

  26. 30

    Piper Scott spews:

    That stupid SurveyUSA poll was commissioned by MoveOn and reported at HuffPo, a couple facts you conveniently omitted to mention, Lee.

    Check out Rasmussen for a different story.

    Just 35 percent of Americans polled favor a Government run health insurance company, while 50 percent oppose it.

    Rasmussen, BTW, was the most consistently accurate poll during the 2008 election season.

    Really, you can cherry pick numbers and convince yourself you’re on top of the issue by talking among yourselves, but when you get out among the people across the country, you ain’t makin’ it.

    The Piper

  27. 31


    It depends on how you ask the question. If you ask the question in the way that most accurately describes what the public option is, the amount of people who support it is consistently over 70%. Rasmussen isn’t in the business of fooling themselves when it comes to prediction election outcomes (and they are very accurate), but they are most definitely in the business of presenting poll questions that shape policy in a light that benefits special interests.

  28. 32

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Here is what American VOTERS think:

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14. These figures mark the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. The previous low of -12 was reached on July 30 (see trends).

    Prior to today, the number who Strongly Approved of the President’s performance had never fallen below 29%. Some of the decline has come from within the President’s own party. Just 49% of Democrats offer such a positive assessment of the President at this time.

    At the other end of the spectrum, today’s total for Strongly Disapprove matches the highest level yet recorded. The 41% mark was reached just once before and that came one week ago today. Seventy percent (70%) of Republicans now Strongly Disapprove along with 49% of those not affiliated with either major party.

    Obama has blown all his political capital on this ridiculous Public Option that he tried to ram thru without Congress or the Public vetting it. Sheer lunacy!

    Plus, the AMA came up with the 47 million uninsured number Obama continually spews.
    10 million of those are illegal.
    14 million already have access to FREE Health Care
    8.4 Million of these make $50,000-$75,000
    9.1 Million make more than $75,000
    (this group of over $50k Americans have CHOSEN not to prioritize insurance in their budgets!)

    This leaves 5 Million that fall into a variety of other categories.
    Let’s spend trillions for 5 million people??
    Sheer lunacy!!!

  29. 33

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    AMA came up with the 47 million uninsured number Obama continually spews.
    10 million of those are illegal.
    14 million already have access to FREE Health Care
    8.4 Million of these make $50,000-$75,000
    9.1 Million make more than $75,000
    (this group of over $50k Americans have CHOSEN not to prioritize insurance in their budgets!)

    This leaves 5 Million that fall into a variety of other categories.
    Let’s spend trillions for 5 million people??
    Sheer lunacy!!!

  30. 34

    RonK, Seattle spews:

    Darryl — What do you make of Question #3, for which a plurality of the same poll respondents characterize the public option adversely?

    Question #2 is badly posed. Many of its positive respondents think they are defending continuation of private health insurance.

    Self-deception effectively disables today’s “progressives”.

  31. 35



    “What do you make of Question #3, for which a plurality of the same poll respondents characterize the public option adversely?”

    Question 3 is an odd question.

    Please tell me which ONE statement you agree with more on the issue of creating a new public health plan administered by the federal government. (choices rotated) Some people say it would help lower health care costs because it would compete with private health plans. This new public plan would provide coverage for the uninsured and all Americans would have an option for quality affordable health care. Other people say that patients might not always have access to their choice of doctors and the government would lower costs by limiting medical treatment options and decisions that should be made instead by patients and doctors.

    The question is convoluted. It makes me curious what the response would be if “Group Health Cooperative” or “AIG’s New HealthChoices™”. In other words, I don’t know if the responses are dividing among pro/anti-Government (in general), pro/anti-Insurance, or pro/anti-government insurance option.

    “Question #2 is badly posed. Many of its positive respondents think they are defending continuation of private health insurance.”

    Really? Compared to question 3, question 2 is remarkably clean and to the point:

    In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance?

    (extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important)

    How would you ask that in a simpler way? And I disagree with your characterization that they are mislead into defending private versus government administered. The question simply asks if it is important that the legislation allow for a choice between the two…you know, as in “option.”

    “Self-deception effectively disables today’s “progressives”.”

    Hmmmm…”self-deception?” Really?

    I think “self-deception” (or “collective sociopathy”) when I hear talk about “government run health care,” “death panels,” “government takeover,” “nazi,” “communist,” “rationing,” etc. in a debate over legislation to offer all Americans affordable health insurance.

  32. 36

    RonK, Seattle spews:

    Darryl —
    “self-deception”? Really”?


    How would you ask that in a simpler way?

    Here’s one way (ABC/WaPo, 8-13-17 … many other results similar):

    Would you support or oppose having the government create a new health insurance plan to compete with private health insurance plans? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
    52% Support, 46% Oppose

    Support/Oppose, BTW, is down from 66/33 in June. And support/oppose “strongly” is trailing, 33/35.

    And support/oppose for congressional candidates who support the proposed reform is down 23/32 … 14/26 among the strongly’s.

    The public option isn’t just controversial – it’s an underdog in the court of public opinion … and every damn fool who imagines otherwise is an effective noncombatant in the fight for health care reform.

  33. 37

    rhp6033 spews:

    Cynical implies that we shouldn’t provide medical insurance for illegal immigrants, that he estimates (i.e., pulls out of his nether regions) as being 10 million of the uninsured.

    Really? Are you saying that there are only 10 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., or that there are many more, but the majority of them have health insurance? Are you prepared to support any of those numbers with – you know – facts? And how does an illegal immigrant get health insurance, by the way? (I’m just curious).

    Besides, as for those who don’t feel we should be providing any health care for illegal immigrants, I have to ask the same thing Gov. Terminator asked – if they come down with a contagious disease, what’s to prevent that disease from rapidly spreading to the rest of the population? What if it turns out the kid down the street is an illegal immigrant from Canada, comes down with Swine Flu, and then after your kids play with them your kids get it too?

    That’s why even Gov. Terminator, with all his budget problems in California, insisted that health care under what used to be known as the MediCal program (I don’t know what they call it now) is available to all children, regardless of whether their parents brought them into the country legally or not.

  34. 39

    SJ's Sockpuppet spews:

    Health Care for Illegal Aliens

    In case the reps and trolls have not noticed, about 200 years ago we passed a constitution that does guarantee all residents of America, NOT just citizens, a number of rights.

    BUT, for arguement sake, suppose an illegal alien. Pedro, has an MI and comes to a hospital, under current law that hopsital must care for them. Do you bozoes want to revoke that law?

    Wait, things ain’t even that simple. Since Pedro is illegal, lets arrest him. OOOPS, if his MI happens while he is in custody, the Fred Gov’t is required by the constitution to provide healthcare for all prisoners.

    OK, so Pedro, instead of taking his chest pain to the ER, takes himself to the police station? And then what happens?

    OR … we could just do what we do now. Take care of Pedro and hide the costs in your insurance bill?

    OR .. we could amend the constitution? Who else would you the na loow hosptials turn away?

    children of illegals?
    uninsured people in general?
    victims of illegal drugs .. coke?

  35. 40

    SJ's Sockpuppet spews:

    @37 rhp is correct

    However, the issue is not just infectious disease.

    ALL children born in the US ARE citizens ..even if Mom and Dad are here illegally. Even Barack Obama is a citizen!

    Just because an alien is illegal does not mean he or she does not have health insurance.

    Infectious diseases are not the only diseases that create a public danger .. mental illness also needs to be treated ..unless you think it is OK to let paranoid schizophrenics roam the street untreated .. you know like the birthers?

    and then there is the little matter of the Constitution. Unless you want to amend it, the US constitution’s award of rights is for all people in the US, not just legals.