EDITORIAL - Tweak not: Americans want real change on health care

Written by Susan Mannella on .

A New York Times/CBS News poll brings the latest evidence that Americans are eager for fundamental change in the nation's health-care system.

A full 85 percent of respondents believe there is too much wrong and not enough right in the system -- 51 percent of them said fundamental changes are needed and another 34 percent went further, saying there is so much wrong with health care in America that it needs to be completely rebuilt.

So why hasn't fundamental change been delivered? Part of the answer is reflected in other answers that respondents gave in the telephone poll of 895 adults, taken June 12-16. People are worried about the system as a whole, but most of them remain satisfied with their own care.

Republicans in Congress and other critics have capitalized on that dichotomy for nearly two decades, attempting to convince citizens that any expansion of government's role in health care will erode their choice of doctors and extend their waiting times.

Yet most people don't seem to be worried about the increased involvement of the federal government, according to the poll results. A majority said the government's job should include guaranteeing health coverage for all, and 72 percent favor having available for everyone a government-administered health insurance plan, as Medicare is for senior citizens, which would compete against private insurer plans.

Most people are willing to pay for it, too. Fifty-seven percent said they would be willing to pay higher taxes so all Americans can have "health insurance that they can't lose no matter what," and 43 percent of them are willing to pay as much as $500 a year.

When it comes to health insurance, it's not going to be easy to find a remedy to satisfy everyone. But Congress and the White House need to recognize that working around the margins and tweaking the system here and there is not what Americans want. They want fundamental change, and they've been waiting for it for too long.


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