Friday, March 2, 2012

Independent Poll Shows Most Americans want Obama’s Health Care Reforms and Contraception Coverage

By M. Ulric Killion

Photo Source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore;“Say you're Mitt Romney. You believe Obama has declared war on religion. As someone who is trying to be the John Connor of the resistance to the forces of free birth control, you could reasonably be expected to know what exactly, your party is doing to rescue Americans from the fresh Hell of preventive care and minimum essential health benefits. Yet when asked by a reporter, Romney seemed unaware of the two main legislative measures Republicans have deployed to prevent exempt employers and insurers from having to cover birth control,” Adam Serwer, Romney Didn't Know What the Blunt Amendment Was, Mother Jones, February 29, 2012.

When searching for independent polls addressing Obama’s health care reform law, I found that the poll conducted by Kaiser Health News (KHN) was especially informative.

The poll was conducted by Kaiser Health News, which is, according to KHN, “a nonprofit news organization committed to in-depth coverage of health care policy and politics.”

KHN is an independent source of data surrounding the current controversy in health; in particular, Obama’s health care reform law and the provisions set forth therein.

The main source of controversy, as reported by several news sources, is Obama’s health care law reform and the revision concerning contraception coverage.

It is a controversy earlier pitting Republicans against Democrats, and for many it was finally settled with Obama’s earlier revisions.

The Republican line of attack against Obama’s health care law reform, and maybe not the last, was a proposed amendment to the bill that is sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

The purpose of what came to be called the “Blunt-Rubio” amendment was to revise Obama’s contraception rules by amending the law (See, for example, Romney comes out against `Blunt-Rubio’, though by the next day, as reported by New York Times, he clarifies that he is not against Blunt-Rubio amendment).

As many are aware, the Republicans generally opposed Obama’s health care reform law on religious and moral grounds.

The Democrats, however, see this issue as one of health care reform. Quoting a New York Times Editorial,

Health care reform, for the first time, required virtually all insurance policies to cover a package of preventive services without co-payments, including flu shots, pap smears and prenatal care. In August, after an Institute of Medicine recommendation, the Obama administration expanded that list to include birth control and screening for H.I.V. and cervical cancer, among other services.

Churches were exempted on religious grounds from covering birth control. And, last month, Mr. Obama announced a plan to let church-related institutions, like hospitals and universities, shift the cost of this coverage to their insurance companies. But that still wasn’t enough for Republicans. . . .

Republicans claimed the issue was about religious freedom. But it was really about denying consumers — and particularly women — the right to make their own medical decisions and keeping up the antigovernment and anti-President Obama drumbeat. . . .

Then there is the poll, which one will find provides surprising data and conclusions about the demographics on the issue of contraception coverage and other health related-issues, such as medicare and the fee-for-service promise.

Additionally, the poll results surprising demonstrate a division on the issue of  contraception coverage along party lines and age, but not gender.

Finally, and more importantly, the independent poll, like other polls, shows that most Americans actually want Obama’s health care reform law, including the controversial contraception coverage.


“Poll: Most Americans Support Contraception Rule”

Source of Independent Poll:

KHN logo blue

By Marilyn Werber Serafini

KHN Staff Writer

MAR 01, 2012

Six in ten Americans, including Catholics, said they support a requirement by the Obama administration that health plans supply free contraceptives as a preventive benefit for women, according to the latest tracking poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Women were divided, with 85 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Independents supporting the requirement but only 42 percent of Republicans. Women across the political spectrum typically are closer together when it comes to supporting contraception rights.

"This is a time where the party attitudes about the role of government seemed to be a greater factor than necessarily being a woman," said Mollyann Brodie, the foundation's director of public opinion and survey research.

The poll also looked at how Americans are responding to recent Republican promises on Medicare. The latest proposals would convert Medicare from a program that provides a set of benefits regardless of the cost to one that gives beneficiaries a set amount of money. Seniors could use that money to buy either a private health plan or traditional fee-for-service Medicare.

Still, this nod to traditional Medicare has not persuaded the public. According to the poll, 70 percent of respondents and even 53 percent of Republicans said they wanted Medicare "as it is today, with the government guaranteeing seniors health insurance and making sure that everyone gets the same defined set of benefits."

Overall, only 39 percent of Republicans said they thought Medicare should change to a premium support model that guaranteed seniors a fixed amount of money for health insurance, even if they could use it to buy traditional fee-for-service.

The poll calls into question whether Republicans will be able to count on the fee-for-service promise to provide them with political cover in November. House Republicans took heat last year when nearly every one of them voted for a premium support plan sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that did not include the traditional Medicare option.

Last November, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney unveiled his own premium-support plan and vowed that future seniors could still opt for fee-for-service. A month later, Ryan teamed up with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., to include a similar promise. Romney and fellow GOP contender Newt Gingrich lauded the proposal. Romney's toughest competitor on the campaign trail, Rick Santorum, though, said he would abolish fee-for-service Medicare.

Still, said Drew Altman, president of the foundation, how candidates couch the fee-for-service promise could make a difference in campaigns. In the poll, various ways of wording the question – raising issues like the solvency of Medicare or the increased power of insurance companies -- changed support for reform significantly.

"The debate will definitely be moved by arguments of both sides," Altman said. "Public opinion on premium support buy-in starts off in a negative place, but is malleable and where it ends up depends on how the debate unfolds."

Responses were mixed for other proposals to change Medicare:

  • RAISING THE ELIGIBILITY AGE. Americans were roughly split when it comes to raising Medicare’s eligibility age gradually from 65 to 67. The widely discussed proposal wouldn’t affect current seniors, who were its biggest supporters. Sixty-three percent of those over age 65 backed raising the eligibility age, while only 43 percent of those under 50 did.
  • INCOME-LINKED PREMIUMS. A majority of respondents (54 percent) favored limiting premium increases to high income seniors. Fewer Republicans (46 percent) supported the approach.
  • INCREASING PREMIUMS FOR ALL. There was little support across-the-board for raising premiums for all seniors.

Despite great public interest in the Medicare and contraception issues, the poll indicated that the economy is still the dominant voting issue at this time. But 23 percent of respondents said that they would only vote for a candidate who shared their views on Medicare. 

And Democrats have gained some ground on Medicare with seniors in this poll. "Democrats have always had the advantage on Medicare, but they used to have the advantage with seniors as well," said Brodie. In late 2010, however, Republican congressional candidates hammered their Democratic opponents by claiming that their vote for the health law cut $500 billion out of Medicare. (The Ryan budget that passed the House last year also proposed $500 billion in Medicare savings.)

Republicans won control of the House in that election, and polls showed that Democrats had lost the support of seniors on the issue of Medicare. In the new poll, 43 percent of seniors said they trusted Democrats more to handle Medicare, while 36 percent placed their trust in Republicans.

The survey of 1,519 adults was conducted between Feb. 13 and Feb. 18. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Source: Poll: Most Americans Support Contraception Rule - KHN


See also EDITORIAL: A Bad Amendment Defeated, The New York Times Editorial, March 2, 2012, reads:

Only one Senate Republican — Olympia Snowe of Maine, who is retiring — voted against a truly horrible measure on Thursday that would have crippled the expansion of preventive health care in America. The amendment, which was attached to a highway bill, was defeated on a narrow 48-to-51 vote. But it showed once again how far from the mainstream Republicans have strayed in their relentless efforts to undermine the separation of church and state, deny women access to essential health services and tear apart President Obama’s health care reform law.

The amendment, which was enthusiastically endorsed by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, would have allowed any employer or insurance company to refuse coverage for any activity to which they claim a religious or moral objection.

That would have meant that any employer who objects to cervical-cancer vaccines could have refused to provide health insurance that covers them. The same goes for prenatal sonograms for unmarried mothers, or birth control, H.I.V. screening or mammograms.

Health care reform, for the first time, required virtually all insurance policies to cover a package of preventive services without co-payments, including flu shots, pap smears and prenatal care. In August, after an Institute of Medicine recommendation, the Obama administration expanded that list to include birth control and screening for H.I.V. and cervical cancer, among other services. . . .

See also Senate Rejects Step Targeting Coverage of Contraception, by Robert Pear, New York Times, March 1, 2012:

Illustrating the political power of the issue, Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, moved quickly on Wednesday to clarify a comment that he was against the Republican plan by Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri. Mr. Romney said that he had misunderstood the question and that he supported Mr. Blunt’s proposal. . . .

See also President Obama’s Birth Control Solution Balances Religious Freedom and Women’s Health, Melissa Rogers, Nonresident Senior Fellow,Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution, February 10, 2012, writes:

President Obama and his administration deserve great credit for implementing a solution that honors free exercise rights and fairness. I deeply appreciate the fact that the White House has taken the religious community’s concerns so seriously.

Under the revised rule, no religious employer that objects to providing contraceptives and sterilization services will have to pay for or provide coverage for it.  The plan rightly recognizes that the government should not force religious communities to pay for or provide services forbidden by their faith.  Also, no objecting religious employer will be required to make referrals for services to which they object. This will remove any burden on the free exercise rights of religious employers. At the same time, employees of objecting religious hospitals, universities, and social service agencies will have access to these important benefits directly from insurers. These benefits strengthen health and families and help to reduce the number of abortions. . . .

See also Obama’s Accomodations to Religious Institutions – The Quiet Resolution of an ‘Ab Initio’ Non-Issue

See also The Republican Conundrum

See also Sandra Fluke Receives Call From Obama After Rush Limbaugh ‘Slut’ Comments, Sam Stein, Huffington Post, March 2, 2012, writes:

3-2-2012 3-36-58 PM

Photo: Georgetown University Law Student Sandra Fluke.

By Sam Stein, Huffington Post, March 2, 2012 —

President Obama on Friday placed a call to Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law school student at the heart of the debate over the contraception law, thanking her for speaking out on the issue.

The call came a day after conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh demanded that Fluke release tapes of her having sex in exchange for the contraception that she argued should be covered by employers. Fluke was set to go on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports when the president rang her on her phone. She took the call while waiting in the green room.


Photo: President Obama.

"He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women," she told Mitchell, who received permission from the White House to discuss the exchange between Fluke and Obama. "What was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So I just appreciated that very much."

Fluke appeared to be choking up a bit while recalling the conversation. But she composed herself and went to discuss how surreal her experience has been. After being declined the opportunity to speak on a congressional panel to debate the president’s contraception rule, she was subsequently invited to address Democrats on the topic. For that, she was vilified by Limbaugh, who also compared her to a prostitute. On Friday, several leading Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), condemned the remarks. The call from the president put a capstone on the week.

"He did express his concern for me and wanted to make sure that I was OK, which I am," she said. "I’m OK."

UPDATE: 1:29 p.m. — At the White House press briefing shortly after the news broke, Press Secretary Jay Carney outlined the reasoning behind the president’s decision to call Fluke.

Obama, said Carney, felt that, "the kinds of personal attacks that have been directed her way have been inappropriate."

"The fact that our political discourse has been debased in many ways is bad enough," he added. "It’s even worse when it is directed at a private citizen who is simply expressing her views about public policy."

The call was placed by Obama from the Oval Office, Carney relayed. It was also the reason why Friday’s press briefing was delayed more than an hour.


Photo: Rush Limbaugh.

UPDATE: As reported by Huffpost Media, Limbaugh responded to Obama’s call during his program on Friday.

“Limbaugh also reacted to President Obama’s call to Fluke. Obama told Fluke that her parents should be "proud" of her. Limbaugh had a different message for them. "I’d be embarrassed," he said. ‘I’d disconnect the phone. I’d go into hiding.’”

Source: Sandra Fluke Receives Call From Obama After Rush Limbaugh ‘Slut’ Comments

See also Rush Limbaugh: I’ll Buy Georgetown Women ‘As Much Aspirin To Put Between Their Knees As They Want’

See also Rush Limbaugh ‘Slut’ Comments Drive Georgetown To Defend Student Sandra Fluke, as the Huffington Post reported:

WASHINGTON — Officials at Georgetown University came to the defense of Sandra Fluke on Friday, criticizing radio host Rush Limbaugh for calling the third-year law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” after she spoke out on birth control insurance coverage.

John DeGioia, president of Georgetown, sent a letter to students and faculty praising Fluke’s congressional testimony. “She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction,” he wrote. “She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people.”

In contrast, DeGioia had harsh words for Limbaugh’s attacks on Fluke, saying they “can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”

At Georgetown Law, 137 professors and staff members have signed a letter in support of Fluke. “As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them,” the letter says. . . .

After his initial comments sparked outrage, Limbaugh doubled down by offering to buy aspirin for all female students at Georgetown Law to place between their knees. That remark, a sarcastic encouragement not to have sex, echoed comments made by major Rick Santorum donor Foster Friess earlier in February.

Fluke responded to the controversy on Thursday in a press statement. “No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women, and has been used throughout history to silence our voices,” she said. “The millions of American women who have and will continue to speak out in support of women’s health care and access to contraception prove that we will not be silenced.”

Copyright protected: All Rights Reserved by M. Ulric Killion, 2012.

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