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Americans doubt benefits of health reform

Published on 27/08/09 at 01:11pm

Most Americans are satisfied with their existing medical arrangements, according to a survey by Thomson Reuters.

The results seem to be a blow to President Obama's attempts to push through sweeping changes to the US healthcare system, as popular support for reform could be decisive.

The survey also found fewer than a third of respondents believe healthcare reform would improve the quality of care, while only 38% think it will lower costs.

Just 44% want the government to play an active role in overseeing healthcare.

In an increasingly bitter public battle, Obama has criticised opponents for using what he says are scare tactics to keep the current system in place.

The Thomson Reuters study asked people to rate their satisfaction with healthcare providers, costs and insurance.

Although more than half said they would wear a tax increase to support healthcare reform, most were happy with the status quo.

About 80% said they were satisfied with their doctor, nearly 70% with their health insurance coverage, and 53% with the amount they pay.

"People are generally satisfied with what they have, sceptical that change will improve the system, and divided on the role the government should play," said Gary Pickens, chief research officer for the Healthcare & Science business of Thomson Reuters, who led the study.

But approximately 50 million Americans, in a population of 300 million, do not have health insurance.

And fewer than half (46%) of those surveyed believe the US has the best healthcare system.

Obama has made great play of the healthcare reform issue, pinning much of his credibility on introducing new laws to see all Americans given some form of insurance.

In the survey, the only groups broadly supporting that idea were under 35, earning less than $50,000 a year or women.

"Its easy to see why there is considerable disagreement about healthcare reform," Pickens added.

"We're seeing wide variance of opinion across demographic profiles, suggesting it will continue to be challenging for legislators to find the middle ground," he concludes.

The death of Senator Edward Kennedy - an ardent supporter of healthcare reform and skilled legislator - this week was thought by some commentators to be a blow for the prospect of new laws.

However, private health premiums have recently risen three times faster than wages in the US, with funds for government-backed schemes Medicare and Medicaid under intense pressure.



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