The status quo is not an option!

For all those flat-earthers out there who think we can just blithely go on like we are and don't need major health care reform, some new round-earth evidence today.  The current system is not sustainable.  The status quo is simply not an option– absent major reforms, things are only going to get significantly worse.  Opponents of reform treat health care as if we were on some sort of plateua, but in truth we are on a down-hill slope that is getting steeper.  The latest numbers from  a Kaiser Family Foundation report:

Many Americans with health benefits face an erosion of coverage next
year under the existing health-care system, according to a new survey,
as employers continue to cut costs.

Forty percent of employers surveyed said they are likely to increase
the amount their workers pay out of pocket for doctor visits. Almost as
many said they are likely to raise annual deductibles and the amount
workers pay for prescription drugs.

Nine percent said they plan to tighten eligibility for health
benefits; 8 percent said they plan to drop coverage entirely. Forty-one
percent of employers said they were "somewhat" or "very" likely to
increase the amount employees pay in premiums — though that would not
necessarily mean employees are paying a higher percentage of the
premiums. Employers could simply be passing along the same proportional
share of the overall increase that they did in 2009.

The annual survey released
Tuesday was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health
Research & Educational Trust. Leaders of the organizations said
their findings underscore the need for reform that reins in costs.

Political journalists being what they are, the story, of course, goes straight to the "game" orientation rather than discussing the policy implications:

The survey is one of several new reports providing fresh ammunition to
President Obama as he struggles to overhaul the nation's health-care
system, and to convince wary Americans who are satisfied with their
health-care coverage. Obama has argued that, without reform, people who
currently have insurance could lose coverage or find it increasingly
difficult to afford.

Some very good news is that some major business groups are starting to figure out this problem (though not the Chamber of Commerce, which is running absurd ads here in NC):

That possibility was driven home by a report issued Tuesday by a major
business lobby, which said that if current trends continue, annual
health-care costs for employers will rise 166 percent over the next
decade — to $28,530 per employee.

"Maintaining the status quo is simply not an option," said Antonio
M. Perez, chief executive of Eastman Kodak and a leader of the Business
Roundtable. "These costs are unsustainable and would put millions of
workers at risk," Perez said in a statement.

Okay, then, just so we're clear.  The two options are: serious health care reform or let things get a lot worse.  I know which one I'll take. 

Health Care public opinion

I was planning on writing a post today examining just how incoherent the latest polls on public opinion are.   The truth is, both opponents and supporters will look for vindication and support in these polls, that ultimately only go to show how problematic and unreliable polling is on most policy issues.  It works pretty well for asking very simple questions: e.g., who will you vote for; is the president doing a good job; but when you actually expect people to have some real knowledge to answer survey questions, it totally breaks down.  David Moore spent years as the senior editor of the Gallup Poll basically came away thoroughly disenchanted with modern political polling.  He's got a great book about it, The Opinion Makers

Anyway, as far as the silliness of the latest polls, Ezra Klein already did my job for me:

Let's start with the public option. A solid 55 percent of the
country supports "having the government create a new health insurance
plan to compete with private health insurance plans." That supports
jumps to 76 percent if the option is reserved for those unable to get
health insurance now. But for all that, when asked if they would favor
health-care reform if the government option was dropped from the
package, support jumps to 50 percent. In other words, the America
people strongly favor the public option, but prefer health-care reform
without it.

Or take Republicans. Asked whether the Democrats should change
health-care reform to attract Republican support, 71 percent support
the effort to reach across the aisle. But asked whether Republicans are
"making a good faith effort to cooperate with Obama and the Democrats
on health care reform," 62 percent say they're not. And when asked
whether Obama and the Democrats are making a good-faith effort to reach
out to the Republicans, 50 percent say they are. To sum up, Americans
believe the Democrats should rewrite the bill to attract the support of
Republicans, even as they believe Republicans have not been negotiating
in good faith, and Democrats have been.

In short, you should trust public opinion polls on complex policy issues about as far as you can throw them.

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