WBUR

WBUR Poll: Most Mass. Residents Support State Health Care Law

BOSTON — Across the national airwaves and on the Republican campaign trail, the Massachusetts coverage law that many now call “Romneycare” is routinely trashed. Here’s Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a debate last October:

Romneycare has driven the cost of small business insurance premiums up by 14 percent over the national average in Massachusetts.

And from former Sen. Rick Santorum last month we heard, “it (Romneycare) was the basis of Obamacare and it was an abject failure.”

So you might think this drubbing would rub off on Massachusetts residents, about two-thirds of whom have consistently endorsed the state’s coverage plan since it passed in 2006. Not so. In the latest WBUR poll, 62 percent support the law and 33 percent oppose it.

“Even with all the attention the Massachusetts law has gotten nationally, it really hasn’t driven down support among voters here in Massachusetts,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the poll.

The difference between national and local opinions about the law is part politics, part misinformation, and partly a difference of experience, said Robert Blendon, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School. Massachusetts residents are living with the law. Opinions outside the state are based on speculation.

“A substantial share of Americans believe that the national law will fail and they assume that the Massachusetts law, which in their minds is related to this, is not working well either,” Blendon said.

That’s the case, said Blendon, even when he presents evidence to audiences outside Massachusetts that a strong majority of residents in the commonwealth are happy with the state law.

“People are convinced,” laughed Blendon, “it (the poll) can’t be right.”

In Massachusetts, most residents in the WBUR poll (68 percent) see former Gov. Mitt Romney’s opposition to the national law as an effort to win votes in his presidential campaign. Only 25 percent see his opposition as a disagreement based on principle.

“Taking that in concert with the level of influence people thought the state law had on the national law, at least it suggests there’s some difficulty distancing yourself from what happened nationally to what happened here at home,” Koczela said.

Which may translate into problems for Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who, like Romney, supports the state law but hopes to repeal the national law.

Malden resident Robert D’Ambrosio registered support for the state health care law in the WBUR poll and is not sure whom he supports in the Senate race. D’Ambrosio finds Brown’s position confusing.

“I don’t understand why he doesn’t bother the same with the national (law) as he does with the state,” D’Ambrosio said. “If you like one, how can you not like the other?”

Many residents polled say they want to know how Brown and leading Democratic contender Elizabeth Warren would control health care costs.

Cummington resident Paula Zindler, another undecided voter, said the state law, which both Brown and Warren support, has forced up the cost of her health coverage.

“We had to switch to a different carrier, ’cause my insurance, I was told, was inadequate,” Zindler explained. “So I either had to change my insurance or pay a fine, and I’m not happy with that.”

While health care is expected to be a key issue in the U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts, there are at least two major, yet-to-be-determined factors that will shape this debate. One is whether the U.S. Supreme Court will let all or part of the federal Affordable Care Act stand. Two is who the Republican presidential nominee will be. But health care will also play into the standard practice of U.S. political races, said Blendon.

“Even though they (Brown and Warren) have a truce on how each side will describe each other, there will be an effort to put one far on the left and one far on the right, and health care examples will be very prominent in that effort,” he said.

By “truce,” Blendon refers to the agreement Warren and Brown reached a few weeks ago to donate half the cost of any political ad funded by an outside organization to charity. Several residents in the WBUR poll praise this deal and say watching whether it holds will be one of the most interesting parts of this year’s Senate race.

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  • Spiritwriter1

    I can understand how the “undecided voter, Zindler” would be unhappy about having to change her health care insurer because it was “inadequate,” but that quote is totally out of context. Was her health care inadequate? In what ways? This is exactly the kind of quote that the (totally insured, at our expense) congress persons who oppose the national health care reform use when they try to kill the reforms. As long as the congress keeps its own health care insurance, they do not have the moral right to vote against coverage for all of America. 

    • Robdel

      Well let me tell you how – I used to have one of the “catastrophic” (as they were referred to) policies where essentially you pay for everything and maybe if you’re lucky the insurance would cover some flowers for your funeral…. Actually Zindler is the PROBLEM, I’m self employed and got to see first hand how this works when another small business owner in our mill building suddenly had a gall bladder attack that required emergency surgery.  This guy was another of these “let me choose” types and either had no or little insurance (although he could afford it). So who do think covered the cost of his surgery? That’s right – you and me sucker (read> The State of Massachusetts > taxes). And that’s a smart system?  You know what, I’ll even agree with opting out – on the condition that when you’re not insured and something bad happens we send you home to die a slow painful death after you’ve spent every dime you have on easing your misery first.  Other than that – pay into the insurance pool.

      • Walnut28

        RE: “sending people home to die a slow and painful death” — many people might opt for death (especially terminal illnesses and/or age-related illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s) but no need for it to be “slow and painful.” Dr. Kevorkian’s machine that provided “humane self-administered euthanasia” was made illegal.  Without some form of socialized medicine, we are all sentenced to choosing between bankrupting ourselves and our families vs. paying exorbitant insurance vs. a “slow and painful death” at home. 

        As Kevorkian said — after his early release after 8 of his sentence of 25 years in jail — this country has lost its common sense.  And we have made it illegal to die.  The result of the latter is that hospitals do every expensive test and go to extreme measures — either to avoid litigation and/or to make huge profits from expensive health insurance.  Health care has become big business.  And, just like oil, investors are now speculating on health care costs, driving the “business” side of health care, making the practice of “healing” a joke, and our civil liberties and “right to life (including death), liberty and pursuit of happiness, a joke.

        Death is part of life.  No need for it to be painful.  But, as illustrated by Robdel’s comments, along with Newt Gingrich’s condemnation of both food stamps AND birth control, our society appears to be losing both its compassion as well as its common sense.  A starting point might be to make it illegal for Wall Street and investment speculators to have any involvement in Health Care.  And we should start with the Stock Act — preventing our own lawmakers from benefiting from the rising cost of health care. 

        • Robdel

          I think you completely missed the point I was trying to make.  I generally agree with everything you’ve said.  What disturbs me is the hypocrisy of those (and there are many) who don’t want to contribute anything but when it’s crunch time…I completely agree, death is part of life, you should be free to choose – when it’s time it’s time.  And I also believe in allowing people to choose how they want to be covered and how they want to approach the end.  But then be prepared to live with your choices….

    • Just Thinking

      I have to argue both you, Spirit and Robdel.  I don’t think having coverage is a bad thing.  I think I differ in the WAY in which it is being done.  Sort of on the same wave as the mandatory, non-competitive auto insurance they used to make us buy in MA.  I agreed with the mandatory auto coverage, but I didn’t agree that it should have been non-competitive.  (Now it’s only partial non-competitive and still way more expensive than in other states with less coverage – it just shifted costs).   I paid in other states less than 1/4 of what I paid for the same auto insurance in MA.  And yes, while our Senators and Congressmen have SOCIALIZED MEDICINE that is not what is being mandatorily required of all of the peoples of the US.  Socialize medicine or butt out.  Think about it logically and mathamatically – I pay close to 10,000 per year just to carry the insurance.  Then I pay out of pocket for co-pays such as medicine and visits.  Now, under this new “we’ve lowered the premiums” but you have to pay 2,000 per person/4,000 per family out of pocket – and that doesn’t mean when you go to the doctor you have a partial payment, that means above and beyond a physical you had better have 2,000 cash in hand to walk into a doctor’s office – because co-pays don’t count for nada. (And I now believe it allows doctors to cancel you as a patient if you don’t have the cash to pay.)  So now, my lowered premiums are 10,000 and I have to have 4,000 cash in hand lest someone in my family gets a broken arm/leg, needs antibiotics, etc….  That’s 14,000 a year not including co-pays.  It’s crazy.  So let’s see, give me socialized medicine – raise my taxes 5,000 a year.  Put back in my pocket the 14,000, which leaves me fully covered and up 9,000 dollars in cash – which could go really far in helping to get this economy rolling along.  And people don’t get it.  So if you’re okay with everyone thowing into the pot (which I agree with) let’s make sure it’s the people’s pot and not the health insureres pot.  Make it socialized medicine.   

      • Robdel

        Actually we don’t disagree as much as you might think.  I was just trying to make the point that at least MA has taken the first step in creating that common pot.  I don’t think anyone would argue the the current setup is the end goal of the system.  At LEAST we can now have a political debate on how best to proceed, public, private, mixed etc.
        As an aside – I’ve lived in both Canad and Europe and am quite familiar with those two systems,  including drawbacks (yes there ARE drawbacks to government run systems). In a nutshell – Canada has a rationed care system.  If what you need is on the menu it’s generally very good.  If you need something that’s not on the menu – best of luck to you….The government portion of most European systems is similar to Canada, however, in Europe they typically allow private service providers as well.  So the reality in Europe is that if you end up in the hospital you’re covered very well.  If you need to see specialists or diagnostics and you don’t want to wait MONTHS (typically) for the government run system to provide them – well you’re paying out of pocket (it’s not cheap - sound familiar?), and that’s AFTER they’ve taken that big chunk out of your paycheck in taxes to pay for that national health system.. My personal opinion is that if we can get everyone who is able to pay into the system to do so, a well regulated privately run system would offer the best solution.

        • Just Thinking

          The problem, Robdel, in my opinion is, the private part.  It’s not that it has to be government run – and I have lived in Europe too and my children resided summers in Canada, so I too have a very good understanding of different systems (and I lived as part of the community not as a military person just seeing the other way of life; not intended to make my point better or worse, just because that’s the way it was), but it does have to be overseen somehow.  The problem is in the “somehow” because that’s where the lobbyist come in, the politician vying for votes…and the insurance company who is in the business, well, for business.  So how do we answer that?  If private were the answer than we wouldn’t have to have mandatory health care laws to begin with!  I don’t know what the answer is, I just know that this new system is a kickback to the insurance companies, and a kick in the arse, head, and torso to the subscriber.

        • Just Thinking

          Robdel, I’d like to add to my previous reply to you.  When we lived in Europe my husband used to say – I pay 45 cents from every dollar (turning it to dollars for conservational purposes), complain, complain.  Moved to America, and now he says, I used to complain that I paid 45 cents to every dollar I made and over here I pay 35 cents to every dollar – THEN I pay for health care, THEN I pay for dental, THEN I pay co-pays, THEN I pay deductables.  When I take out of my paycheck the actual expenses for what I used to get for 45 cents to a dollar, I now am lucky enough to be paying 75 – and we call ourselves better off?  What the hell was I thinking!  And he throws in to boot – and if I got laid off I was guaranteed a sufficient amount compensation until I found a new job.   Over here – belly up baby should hard times hit   :) 

          So all things are relative!  I never once had a hard time or had to wait for health care in Europe – nor did my children in Canada.  I am not saying the systems are without fault – I’m just saying that when you live in one, you can’t really see the truth of the other!

          • Robdel

            Just Thinking,  all good observations on your part.  I also experienced all 3 systems as a civilian (not military) and as you said they’re not without flaws.  I’m not a big fan of the Canadian system, when I lived there I actually had to come to the US and pay out of pocket for diagnostics which were simply not offered in Canada. In addition I wasn’t even informed that those options existed – I had to research it myself and have the doctors grudgingly agree with me.  I personally like the European system, which avoids this problem.  National coverage is decent in Europe and you can always pay out of pocket for any additional service you want (and it’s typically not an exhorbitant sum of money).  In terms of the MA syste, I’m certainly not advovacating that’s it’s a perfect system – but – if it’s at least viewed as a first step to getting everyone into some kind of system at least we can move forward  and work to create a BETTER system.

      • Walnut28

        Totally agree w/ the auto insurance thing.  My friends in rural areas cannot believe our auto insurance rates!  A lot of the high costs of ANY insurance in MA have to do with lack of tort reform.  Ever been in a minor car accident?  Everybody gets sued, no matter how small the fender bender. It’s supposed to be “no-fault” but I just see one insurance agency suing another, no matter who was at fault.  Same with health care.  THINK ABOUT UNBRIDLED LITIGATION!!!  We, the taxpayers, pay for the judges, the bailiffs, the clerks, the police, etc., etc. most of whom get lifetime benefits (with spouses of judges, for instance, getting full pay and cadillac health care for life should a judge die…ever…).  Our judicial system has no motivation for tort reform.  Everyone wins in a lawsuit…except the taxpayer.  Lawsuits are job security for every single individual involved in any court case — from parking tickets to OUI’s.  Insurance premiums go up.  To illustrate — and only indirectly related to health care in MA — the BP Gulf oil drilling accident is about to enter into litigation.  Yeah…what happened is really bad and people died, and the fish and tourist industry suffered horribly.  BUT…they are predicting a decade of litigation activities.   Who pays for all the lawyers, judges, and $millions of court costs?  THE TAXPAYER!  The same is true for every single health care related litigation (just watch your TV ads for lawyers).  Without tort reform, we will continue to pay higher and higher premiums for any litigation that might result from any visit to a doctor or a hospital.   

        • Just Thinking

          In the end, you’re right.  But I want to clarify that I don’t believe it’s malpractice suits which drive up the cost of health care.  Most people don’t understand how our health care system works – and I’m not going to get into it here, too long and complicated – but suffice to say, by pitting lawyers against doctors, everyone looks exactly where they shouldn’t be looking.  Aside from all of that, it’s the fundamental point, in my opinion, that people are not paying attention too.  IF SOCIALIZED HEALTH CARE CAN’T WORK IN THIS COUNTRY, WHY DO ALL OF OUR POLITICIANS HAVE IT? I mean, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.  If it does, it does. What is this nonsense of saying it can only work for some, but not all.  You just make the same program bigger!  And what annoys me even more are the ones who have it scream about how the idea of  anything socialized is bad! 

  • National Healthcare Please

    I thought part of the motivation for the law was that more people paying in would drive down premium costs. I feel like that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I am in a position where I don’t qualify for assistance because I make too much, but I can’t afford the premium cost for my family. I wish the U.S. would support national healthcare. I just don’t understand the opposition. I would much rather have elected officials deal with it then have profit-driven insurance companies make health decisions.

    • Just Thinking

      Agreed.  I think most people agree with it – which the polls indicate, but I think the data is skewed in that it doesn’t represent the arguments with Mass. Health Laws.  I think we all agree coverage is good, but the WAY in which we go about it is lining the pockets of the insurance companies and the individual is going belly up.  For those of you who still have “choice”, beware because the insurance companies are raising the premiums for any kind of decent coverage so high that companies are now switching to the 2,000/4,000 in order to keep their costs down and employees are left with a one choice option which is terrible.  Really, I would be better putting my 14,000 in the bank and risking the odds.  When my company still gave a choice between that one and other options it was fine, I was on the band-wagon like everyone else.  But when your employer can no longer afford the 30/70 or 60/40 payments for the options which really allow you to be covered, they will, as many have done, only offer the lowest one – and trust in me – it’s this simple, I don’t go to see a doctor any more, literally.  If I could, I would dump this – but I can’t because I will get fined.  Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.  I have always had coverage, but now I pay and and have no coverage, so what the freak am I paying for?   

  • ISinkel

    I am in my early 60′s, but too young for Medicare…..I am so grateful to be living in a state where I can get health insurance without being ripped off because of my age or pre-existing conditions….It’s not cheap, but at least I won’t lose my home if I get sick. I would prefer national healthcare, but at least I have MassCare.

  • rockhauler

     a few months back i heard a show with laura kenoy on nhpr about mass. health care system. the doctors and policy wonks on the show indicated that with 98% coverage the state now has a true picture of the costs of health care that now makes it possible to know where and how to cut costs, without which cost cutting would be essentially uninformed. i thought – brilliant.  i wonder if that info would be helpful to the rest of the country and whether we should share it, considering the level of doubt out there.

  • Mat

    Really? Its hard to believe that the Commies listening to NPR would be into socialized medicine. Whats next, a study on whether or not they like their Union job? 

    • nicoise

      I don’t think you understand how polls work.  WBUR sponsored (payed for) the poll.  Its not an online survey or opinion poll that only their viewers see.  Its a statewide; likely phone call based, poll.  

      • Mat

         They likely used their donor list to make the call sheet. I can’t see a non-profit paying a company for a phone list.

        • nicoise

          They did pay for it.

          “The MassINC Polling Group (MPG) is an independent, non-partisan organization providing public opinion research and analysis to public and private sector clients. As a subsidiary of the think tank MassINC, MPG is uniquely objective, and thoroughly informed in local, state and national public affairs, as well as consumer-oriented market research. “

          • Mat

            I stand corrected. Thank you.

          • kayakwest

            Goodonya, Mat.  We all appreciate a courteous exchange and people smart enough to learn. That’s probably how you got successful.

          • Patriot

             How dare you present facts to a right-winger!  Makes Mat looks like an assumptive idiot, doesn’t it?

    • Anonymous

      The number one cause of bankruptcy are medical bills.  Why does that make Republicans so happy?  What is it about the average American that causes them to say, “Let him die”?

  • Ralph Freidin

    To truly appreciate the success of Massachusetts Health Care, one only needs to see what it is like to live in America without access to care. For those millions of citizens who do not have coverage life is not the same as those of us who do. As a physician who has practiced primary care in Massachusetts for over 30 years and been a participant in Commonwealth care since its inception I have seen how access to care has allowed people with previously untreated illness that had prevented them from working, be able to return to work support themselves and their families and feel good about themselves when they moved to Massachusetts from a state where medical care was financially beyond their reach. In contrast to this patient and many like him, when I volunteered at free clinics around the country I saw people whose blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and all the other chronic conditions had been untreated for years. What is the cost of that?
    Try to put yourself in the place a someone whose blood pressure is  210/120 or vision has deteriorated due to uncontrolled diabetes because they can not afford a physician’s visit and pay for medication. If they have medication, they take it every third day or when they feel their pressure is high because they cannot afford to refill it.
    What we have in Massachusetts is special. Certainly not a final answer but infinitely better than in the other 49 states. If the ACA parallels the experience in MA, it will be a success.
    Lastly, for those who fear that it will cost too much, please consider who pays for the acute care of people who are cared for in emergency rooms and hospitals with advanced disease or who need disability income rather than contributing to the work force. The cost has already been paid it is just coming from a different pocket.
    Ralph B Freidin, MD
    Boston MA
    http://theunseenpatient.blogspot.com

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