Poll shows majority support state-run health care in Wisconsin

Associated Press

MADISON — A majority of Wisconsin residents favor a state-run health insurance system, but even more like the idea of expanding existing programs or investing in health savings accounts, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The results lend support to Democratic lawmakers’ efforts to pass a universal health care plan rejected by Republicans during this year’s budget negotiations.

Fifty-one percent of respondents support replacing the current health insurance system with one administered by the state government covering all residents, the University of Wisconsin Survey Center’s Badger Poll said.

While that’s a majority, the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points means it’s possible that less than 50 percent actually support the idea.

The poll did not ask about the specific plan working its way through the Legislature. Under that proposal, the payroll tax that employers and employees pay would be increased by $15 billion to pay for the coverage.

Supporters argue the plan would save billions of dollars with lower pharmaceutical and administrative costs, preventive care and fewer inappropriate emergency room visits.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, the plan’s main sponsor, is working on a new version to be introduced next year.

A larger majority — 61 percent — said in the poll that they support encouraging people to put money into tax-free health savings accounts that would help pay for health care costs. Republicans who oppose the universal health care plan have generally backed the idea of making health savings accounts tax deductible. Critics argue those accounts only help the wealthy who can afford to put money aside for future health care costs.

Seventy-two percent favor requiring all people to have insurance, either from their employer or another source. And 82 percent support expanding existing state health insurance programs for low-income people.

The new state budget includes an expansion of BadgerCare that Gov. Jim Doyle pushed to make health insurance available to all children in the state regardless of their family’s income.

The poll also found that:

# 18 percent of respondents said health care issues and concerns are the most important problem facing the state today.
# 28 percent said they were dissatisfied with the current system, while 56 percent said they had mixed feelings. Only 15 percent said they were satisfied.
# 50 percent said the state’s health care system had major problems, 35 percent said there were minor problems, 12 percent said it was in a state of chaos and 2 percent said there are no problems.

The poll of 507 people was conducted between Nov. 27 and Dec. 5.
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