Public Evenly Divided on Key Health Care Trade-Offs

When it comes to reforming health care, voters believe reducing the cost of care and ensuring that everyone has access to it are top priorities. When asked which is more important, a poll found that 53% say reducing the cost of care is the higher priority while 47% think ensuring access for everyone is more important (see question wording and crosstab results)..

The two priorities, of course, are not always in conflict. Reducing the cost of care will generally improve access to care. However, at times, choices between the two goals have to be made.

In practical terms, tensions between many competing priorities present critical challenges for reform efforts. asked about many potential trade-offs and found voters are fairly evenly divided on all of them.

  • Fifty-four percent (54%) say it’s more important for everyone to be able to select their own doctor rather than to reduce costs. Forty-six percent (46%) take the opposite view.
  • By an identical 54% to 46% margin, reducing the waiting time for doctor visits and surgeries is narrowly preferred over ensuring that everyone has access to care.
  • Fifty-one percent (51%) place a higher priority on getting new treatments to patients sooner while 49% think it’s more important to focus on trying to eliminate risks of new treatments.
  • Fifty-one percent (51%) think it’s more important for the government to decide when new treatments are safe. Forty-nine percent (49%), however, think a greater emphasis should be placed on letting patients decide if they want to try risky new treatments.

These results highlight underlying attitudes rather than policy positions and the numbers could move dramatically with additional details. For example, it is likely that there would be more support for letting people try risky new treatments if the patients were identified as terminally ill.

This point was made clear with another finding from the survey. Fifty-two percent (52%) believe that it’s more important to let each person decide how much insurance they want to buy while 48% prefer requiring everyone to buy what experts determine as the right amount of insurance.

That suggests there is plenty of support and concern on each side of the question. But, there is also evidence that most believe that U.S. law at the moment offers too much deference to experts.

Current law requires insurance companies to offer comprehensive policies that cover just about all medical procedures. And, because the coverage is so comprehensive, it raises the cost of insurance significantly. That’s a problem because reducing the cost of care is the top health care priority for voters. So, while nearly half of all voters prefer letting experts decide, 75% think people should be able to choose between a variety of health insurance plans that range in price based on the level of coverage they provide.

Additionally, 78% believe workers should have a choice between more expensive insurance with a lower paycheck or less expensive insurance with a bigger paycheck. If they had the choice, 65% of workers would opt for less insurance and a bigger paycheck.

Still, as proposals to expand choice in insurance coverage move forward, there will be an ongoing need for advocates to find the right balance between individual choice and expert guidance. One approach might involve having states establish minimum levels of coverage requirements. Experts in different states might come up with different answers to further highlight the trade-offs.

Data released earlier showed that dealing with health care reform should be a top priority for the new Congress.

The mission of is to enhance the public dialogue through data-driven analysis that explores the underlying currents of public opinion (read About Us). We release four to eight new polling updates each day. Sign up HERE to receive our daily email update. You can also follow our work on Twitter  and Facebook.

The national survey of 1,040 Registered Voters was conducted November 13-14, 2018 by and HarrisX, a polling company specializing in online surveys (see Methodology and a demographic profile of our sample). It has a 3.1 percentage point Margin of Error with a 95% level of confidence.

Neither Scott Rasmussen nor has any relationship with Rasmussen Reports® (see About Us).

Posted in Poll Results

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