A Partisan Divide on the Uninsured

The partisan split in Congress over health reform may reflect a broader divide among the public in attitudes toward the uninsured.

Despite expert consensus over the harms suffered by the uninsured as a group, Americans disagree over whether the uninsured get the care they need and whether reform legislation providing universal coverage is necessary. The authors examined public perceptions of health care access and quality for the uninsured over time, and found that Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to believe that the uninsured have difficulty gaining access to care. Senior citizens are less aware than others of the problems faced by the uninsured. Even among those Americans who perceive that the uninsured have poor access to care, Republicans are significantly less likely than Democrats to support reform. Thus, this study's findings indicate that even if political obstacles are overcome and health reform is acted, future political support for ongoing financing to cover the uninsured could be uncertain.