- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Americans don’t want to shoulder the cost of President Obama’s health care overhaul themselves, strongly preferring that the rich should pay for it.

That’s the finding from a new Associated Press poll, and it could be a boost for House Democrats, who have already voted to tax upper-income people to fund their sweeping remake of the U.S. medical system. Their plan, narrowly approved earlier this month, would extend coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

The poll, conducted by Stanford University with the nonpartisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found survey participants sour on other ways of paying for the health overhaul that is being considered in Congress.

The unpopular options include taxing insurers on the high-value coverage packages derided by President Obama and Democrats as “Cadillac plans.” That approach, being weighed in the Senate, is one of the few proposals in any congressional legislation that analysts say would help rein in the nation’s health expenditures while bringing in new funds. But the idea has come under fire from organized labor and has little support in the House.

Lawmakers also are looking at levying new taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical-device makers. But the only approach that got majority support in the Associated Press poll was a tax on the wealthiest Americans.

The House bill would impose a 5.4 percent income-tax surcharge on individuals making more than $500,000 a year and households making more than $1 million.

“You know, I mean, why not? If they have that much money, it should be taxed,” said Mary Pat Rondthaler, 60, of Menlo Park, Calif. “It isn’t the same way that the guy making $21,000 is.”

Not everyone agreed.

“They earn their money. And they shouldn’t have to pay for somebody else. It doesn’t seem fair,” said Emerson Wilkins, 62, of Powder Springs, Ga.

Overall, the poll found the public split on Congress’ health care plans. In response to some questions, participants said the current system needed to be changed, but they also voiced concerns about the impact on their own pocketbooks, preferring to push any new costs onto wealthier Americans.

For example, 77 percent said the cost of health care in the United States was higher than it should be, and 74 percent favored the broad goal of reducing the amount of money paid by patients and their insurers. But 49 percent said any changes made by the government probably would cause them to pay more for health care. Thirty-two percent said it wouldn’t change what they pay, and just 12 percent said they thought they would end up paying less.

The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,502 adults from Oct. 29 to Nov. 8. It has a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points. The interviews were conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media.

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