November 8 2009

American Women Deserve Better Than Government-run Health Care

Democrats want to nationalize America's health care system. The chief victims of such a policy would be women. Women, who make most health care decisions for their families, have the most at stake in preserving high quality medical treatment centered on patient choice.

U.S. health care is expensive and not everyone has health insurance. But America provides the best medical treatment in the world, offers patients the most options, and generates the most advanced pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and health care treatments.

Preserving these strengths is particularly important for women, who account for two-thirds of the dollars spent on health care and take more prescription drugs than men.

The Democratic Congress would have us believe that a government takeover would improve the lot of women. Yet government-run health care routinely degrades quality and limits choice.

Women understand this. Which is why the majority of women oppose any attempt to nationalize U.S. medicine.

The Independent Women's Forum recently commissioned a survey on the attitudes of American women on health care. More Democrats than Republicans were polled and a majority voted for Barack Obama last year.

Yet a strong majority opposed health care reform. They did not want more government control of their medical destinies.

For instance, two-thirds of those questioned said they would "rather have private health insurance than a government-run health insurance plan." The majority indicated its belief that private markets were better than government in providing medical care.

Strong majorities opposed a public takeover of the health care system. Sixty-two percent of women rejected the claims that "a federally run healthcare program is what is best for my family and me" and fifty-six percent disagreed that they "would be best served by a government-run healthcare plan." Similarly, fifty-seven percentsaid they would not sacrifice their private insurance for a public plan.

Opposition to a government takeover crossed age, education, and region. All groups recognized the superiority of private medicine.

Eight of ten Republicans and more than seven of ten conservatives said a private provision was best. Two-thirds of independents and a strong majority of moderates shared this belief. A majority of Democrats and nearly half (49%) of liberals admitted that they would rather have private insurance.

The numbers are particularly sobering for moderate and conservative Democrats worried about their reelection chances next year. Three-quarters of those polled believed their own health care to be good or excellent. Similar numbers opined that theirhealth insurance--the target of endless vilification by liberal activists--was appropriate and high quality. Two-thirds said it was good or excellent.

So the majority of those surveyed said they did not want to be part of any expanded government role. Four of ten wanted at most minor changes to their insurance and nearly as many wanted no change.

Most women demonstrated a healthy skepticism of the ability of government to micromanage medicine. More than half feared a government takeover would reduce the quality of health care. Nearly half figured that a government-run system would drive doctors out of medicine. About as many worried that increased government control would raise their medical costs.

Almost everyone was concerned about the federal bottom line. Eight of ten agreed that the government wastes money. A majority believed that the Congressional Budget Office estimates understated what government-led "reform" would cost. There was substantial doubt that the Congress could cut the deficit, as claimed, while expanding the government's role in providing health care.

Only one of ten women thought legislators should approve legislation if the cost was a trillion dollars or more. A dominating 81 percent figured that a government-controlled system would raise their taxes. Almost as many complained that taxing people who don't buy insurance would be unfair.

Notably, swing voters feared the direction of current efforts. More than two-thirds ofindependentsdisagreed with the argument that Congress should enact a government-led plan "even if it significantly increases the federal budget deficit."

Women also worried about the impact of expensive legislation on their children and grandchildren. A solid 57 percent opposed "reform" that would increase the federal deficit and debt.

Women want better care, but believe in a political variant of the doctors' Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm. More than half of respondents said legislation should be approved only if it had bipartisan support.

Women rejected artificial timetables or deadlines: 43 percent said health care reform should be implemented "only when quality legislation is developed" while another 22 percent were willing to wait a year or two. An overwhelming 85 percent of independents said that they "would prefer that Congress do healthcare reform right than do it fast."

Women are prepared to punish legislators who interfere with private care. Two-thirds of women--including three-quarters of independents--said that they would be less likely to support candidates who attempted to move people from private to public plans.

Opposition to a government takeover doesn't mean opposition to genuine reform. Half of women believe that the private sector can lower costs while ensuring quality.

Thus, government should reduce artificial roadblocks to a more competitive and efficient private health care system. Member of Congress who want to keep their jobs after next year's mid-term elections should take note: Market-based reforms--not big government--would yield both better medical care and more votes from women in the next election.

Sunday Reflection contributor Michelle Bernard, author of "Women's Progress, How Women are Wealthier, Healthier, and More Independent Than Ever Before," is president and CEO of the Independent Women's Forum and Independent Women's Voice and is an MSNBC political analyst.

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