If you read Health Populi then you’re as confounded as I am by the plethora of polls on Americans’ views on health reform. In the past month, I have received a press release (or two or three) from Rasmussen, ABC-Washington Post, CBS-NY Times, Fox News, Gallup-USA Today, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Family Foundation, NBC-Wall Street Journal, NPR, Pew, and Quinnipiac, among other pollsters, measuring the changing temperature of Americans on health reform.

I’ve wrestled with how to handle the conflicting, confounding, wide-ranging statistics yielded by these surveys. My solution to this challenge comes tailor-made in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, dated August 12 2009. The uber-health pollster Bob Blendon of Harvard has done a sort of meta-analysis of the polls and has a fresh take.

His article is titled, “The US Public’s Expectations of Results of Health Care Reform on Various Measures.” Among the measures Blendon focuses on:

Access to health care: about 1 in 2 Americans expect access to expand, while 20% expect access to fall.

Quality of care: 41% believe it will improve, yet 25% forecast quality to fall and 28% expect it to stay the same.

Cost of care: a mixed bag, with the Kaiser Family Foundation poll finding that a plurality of Americans expect costs to fall, while a Gallup poll found a plurality of Americans believe costs will increase. Just how does that happen to fall the way it did, anyway? Inquiring minds want to know!

Taxes: in the Fox poll, most Americans believe they will increase.

Blendon and his co-author John Benson identify three factors that shape Americans’ potential support for health reform: “Will reform improve the nation’s health care system? Will their own care get better? Will their own costs become less burdensome?”

Health Populi’s Hot Points: Blendon and Benson concur (as I do) that the majority of Americans want major change in our health system. However, at the end of the day — that is, when/if health reform gets passed — support on the final plan will depend on, “Americans’ believing that they and the country will be better off if such a change is enacted.”

At the end of the day, that means it’s, first, all about “me” — a very American concept.

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