(Host) According to a new VPR poll, Vermonters are evenly divided over the implementation of a publicly financed, government-operated health care system in the state.
The poll also shows that a significant number of Vermonters want to use a broad-based tax, like the sales or income tax, to finance a plan to provide health care benefits to uninsured people.
There was very little support for the governor’s proposal to tax health care premiums.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) Health care was a key issue at the Statehouse this year but no definitive action was taken because Democratic leaders and the governor couldn’t agree on a funding source for a plan to provide benefits to uninsured Vermonters.
The VPR poll, which was conducted late last week, contains the opinions of 401 people. Those participating in the survey were asked which type of overall health care system they favored.
Forty-one percent supported a publicly financed state system while an equal number backed either the existing employer based system or the current system with some changes.
William Grover is a political science professor at Saint Michael’s College. He thinks the results represent a definite challenge to the current system.
(Grover) “So I think it’s actually significant that roughly half the people are willing to go with a publicly financed system. It’s a recognition that people understand that we have a health care crisis, and people know what it means to be uninsured. People know what it means to be underinsured, where any major illness might push you into personal bankruptcy. And it seems to me that the results of this poll suggest that people understand those economic and health care realities.”
(Kinzel) The poll results also reflect a gender factor to this question. More women support the publicly financed system than men. Meanwhile, a majority of men back the existing employer-based system.
(Grover) “I think that the gender difference in Vermont with women favoring more of a universal system, I think reflects what pollsters call the gender gap nationally too – that women are more liberal if you will on these issues than men are generally speaking.”
(Kinzel) Those responding to the poll also favored using broad based taxes to pay for a program to provide health care benefits to uninsured Vermonters.
Forty-two percent support using a general tax, like the sales or income tax. Thirty percent back a payroll tax on companies that don’t provide insurance coverage. And just two percent support the governor’s plan to tax existing health care premiums. The remaining people don’t know or don’t support a program for the uninsured.
Professor Grover says the results show a wide gap between how many members of the public and the governor view this issue.
(Grover) “I think that the governor has a definition of freedom, kind of freedom from governments, and that the people are more likely to have a notion of freedom that means freedom to develop yourself fully. And that means .if you don’t have health care you have very very little. If you don’t have access to health care and reasonably priced health care you may have a lot of things. You may have the ability to vote. But you don’t have a full notion of freedom. And I think in some ways here, what’s happening is that the people and the governor are out of sync of what it means to be free.”
(Kinzel) Grover says it’s also important to note that support for a broad based tax approach is the strongest among Vermonters who earn less than $100,000 a year.
It’s likely that health care will continue to be a major issue in Vermont. House leaders plan to hold public hearings throughout the state during the summer and fall to gauge the public’s views on overhauling the existing health care system.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier
(To hear Bob Kinzel’s report, click on the “Listen” icon.)
Note: The random sample VPR poll has a margin of error of plus or minus five percent. It was conducted between June 8th and June 12th by ORC Macro of Burlington. Read VPR’s Spotlight Poll results