Covering the uninsured tops Americans’ health care priorities for presidential candidates. That’s the #1 health issue for Democrats and Independents; managing health care costs is the top health policy concern for Republicans. This, according to the latest Wall Street Journal Online/Harris Interactive poll published on October 4, 2007.

Health care coverage is emerging as a front-burner for the American middle class. 61% of Americans said that health care ‘works’ better for the very poor and the rich versus the middle class. Furthermore, nearly 2/3 of Americans believe that health care in the U.S. works just fine if you are healthy – but not if you are sick.

Two-thirds of Americans see it as the government’s job to ensure that all Americans have adequate healthcare coverage. Most adults — across party lines — also believe that the U.S. healthcare system could be improved by creating an insurance program that is not linked to individuals’ employers (62%).

The poll examines how much Americans trust each of the presidential candidates’ policies for “improving and reforming the U.S. healthcare system.” Senator Clinton comes out on top, as follows:

Candidate and % trusting a great deal/to some extent
Senator Clinton 38%
Senator Obama 36%
Senator Edwards 34%
Mayor Giuliani 31%
Senator McCain 26%
Former Senator Thompson 24%
Governor Romney 18%
Governor Richardson 12%

While Senator Clinton marginally wins the health reform trust contest, the poll shows that she polarizes America on health care. She is both most and least trusted when it comes to health care reform in the U.S. – in nearly equal parts (38% to 32%).

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Consensus is building among the American middle class to ensure that all Americans without health care coverage get it. Furthermore, most Americans believe it is government’s job to ensure that happens. Most Americans also believe that health insurance should be de-coupled from employment. The complex web of health insurance and the tax code under which employers have operated for decades would have to be untangled. Do employers want to be untangled from providing health insurance? We know that some indeed do; I wrote about the autos’ desperate wish to divest themselves of future health care liabilities in Health Populi on the 13th and 26th of September. We’ve also heard from small business on the subject; a new Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index poll demonstrates that small business supports the idea of a taxpayer-funded national health insurance program. So how do larger employers feel? In the months approaching the 2008 elections, watch for policy statements to emerge from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and regional business groups on health.