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It's Not Just The Uninsured Who Delay Care

The Kaiser Famiy Foundation just released its latest tracking poll on health reform. It's full of interesting material and worth more commentary later on. For now, though, I wanted to flag two results.

The first is the response to a question about whether people have put off medical care--forgoing a treatment or test, skipping an appointment, etc.--because they were worried about the cost. Six in ten respondents said they did:

Politically, the key to passing reform is convincing middle-class people, including those with insurance, that they will benefit from it. This finding suggests many of those people would be receptive to such a message--although, of course, the trick is coming up with a policy that actually makes health care more affordable for all of these people. 

The other interesting result result was a question about how to pay for reform. The Foundation asked respondents how they felt about taxes on unhealthy behavior--not just smoking and drinking, but soda and junk food too. To my surprise, a majority answered "strongly favor" or "somewhat favor":  

Funding health reform by, in part, taxing behavior that fosters medical problems makes perfect sense. A few years ago, in fact, I joined the chorus of experts advocating a "twinkie tax." But I always assumed it was positively off-limits politically, the sort of idea that would get you laughed out of polite conversation. Maybe it isn't.

To be clear, not all of the poll results were so encouraging. Among other things, voters seemed pretty lukewarm on reducing the tax exclusion for group health benefits. And I still think that's the only viable way to pay the full cost of universal coverage. 

--Jonathan Cohn