Poll: Occupational Stability, Health Reform Rated among Top Priorities

The public says focusing on the nation's employment rate and ensuring the availability of health insurance should be among the top priorities for President-elect Obama and Congress in their efforts to stem the impact of the economic recession, according to a national survey conducted by researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Americans rank helping businesses keep or create jobs first (picked by 45 percent as a top priority), followed by helping the newly unemployed afford health insurance coverage (33 percent) behind. Providing states with more federal help to pay for health care of lower income residents ranks third (picked by 31 percent). These proposed health provisions of the stimulus package ranked ahead of repairing the country's infrastructure, cutting taxes for the middle class, helping people pay their mortgages (each picked by 27 percent), and helping large businesses hurt by the recession (13 percent).

Almost eight in 10 Americans (78 percent) favor requiring health insurance companies to cover anyone who applies, even if they have a pre-existing condition. This support remains high (72 percent) even when the public is given the argument often made that such a change may raise health insurance costs for healthier people even as it lowers them for the less healthy. When offered a list of potential taxes that could be used to pay for expanding health insurance for the uninsured, the only options with majority support were those likely to impact the fewest people, in particular, smokers and the wealthy.

According to the survey, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say they would be less likely to support a plan that would let the government get too involved in personal health care decisions, more than six in ten (61 percent) would be less likely to support a plan that increases people's insurance premiums or out-of-pocket costs, and more than half (56 percent) would be less supportive of a plan that limits an individual's choice in doctors.

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