Myth #18

People In All Developed Countries, Including The United States, Prefer National Health Insurance.

As far back as the presidency of Richard Nixon, polls showed as much as 61 percent of the people favored national health insurance. [151] And only 3 percent of Canadians and12 percent of the British say they would trade their own system for the U.S. health care system. [152] But on closer examination, all those polls tell us is that most people prefer a free lunch.

Polls also tell us that most Britons believe the cost to them of national health insurance is about 1/20th of what it actually costs. At 1/20th of its real costs, the British health care system might look attractive to most people. Since health care taxes are also disguised in Canada, it seems likely that Canadians are unaware of their individual contribution to national health insurance as well. Thus, most of these people think they get a lot more than they pay for. And given the international publicity about the American health care costs, it's not surprising that people prefer something-for-nothing rather than something better but very expensive.

When individuals are asked to compare benefits with costs, their responses to polls are much more revealing. Roughly speaking, people prefer to see government spend more on health care, provided their own taxes are not increased to finance the spending. For example:

  • By a margin of 71 to 26 percent, Americans agree that, "Health insurance should pay for any treatments that will save lives even if it costs one million dollars to save a life."

  • When the United States was spending 8.2 percent of GNP on health care, most respondents thought we were spending 13 to 15 percent and identified 16 to 20 percent as the appropriate amount.[153]

  • A majority favor covering the uninsured through employer mandates or through an expansion of Medicare.[154]

  • But when asked about paying, people were unwilling to pay higher income taxes and supported the proposal only if it were financed by "sin taxes" or taxes on employers. [155]

Thus, polling data give no indication that people are willing to pay 15 percent of their income to finance national health insurance. Nor do the polls indicate that Americans are willing to accept the negative aspects of national health insurance. For example: [156]

  • The public overwhelmingly disapproves of any cost-containment measure that translates into a lower quality of care.

  • By a margin of 81 to 18 percent, the public is unwilling to accept longer waits for doctor's appointments or elective surgery.