8 in 10 Americans say making sure affordable health insurance plans are available is Job 1 for health reform.

The November 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll finds that affordability, insurance reform (especially coverage of pre-existing conditions), and managing the Federal deficit are top priorities for health reform across all Americans polled.

Other reform elements favored by over 50% of Americans are subsidizing health insurance for uninsured who can’t afford it on their own (65%), and an individual mandate for health insurance (56%).

Underneath these numbers are big differences between demographic groups–in particular, among those over 65 who seek to preserve their present state of Medicare benefits, and those under 65 who seek change. 61% of people over 65 believe the current system should stay in place for the long-term financial health of Medicare, and 60% say keeping the current system would be better for seniors on Medicare.

Not surprisingly, more Democrats and Independents favor reform “now” than do Republicans. So do members of non-white racial and ethnic groups vs. whites, younger people, and those with lower incomes and less education.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: It is not surprising that Americans are dazed, confused and disappointed with the status of health reform in November 2009. As KFF’s November Tracking Poll illustrates, there are deep divisions across demographic groups — especially old versus young — caused by both demagoguing across the aisle as well as effective PR launched by interest groups. To be fair, though, the sausage making that is health politics has been rather difficult to observe and the outcome less-than-satisfactory whatever position you hold — whether single-payer advocate, laissez-faire market-driven, or public/private combo.

As we exhale and share the Thanksgiving holiday with family, friends and community, we’ll count our blessings. Those of us with fully-loaded health insurance are fortunate, indeed.

And, don’t forget to have the Engage with Grace discussion at the table with loved ones. More on that tomorrow…

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