Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

March 11, 2010
12:01 AM PST

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


From Health Affairs

Public Attitudes -- And Partisan Differences -- About Whether The Uninsured Get The Medical Coverage They Need


Bethesda, MD -- According to an article released today by Health Affairs, a majority of Americans believe that the uninsured are able to get the medical care they need, a finding that has remained largely unchanged for ten years. This finding comes from a June 2009 telephone survey of 1,098 adults, which found that 58 percent of the respondents held that belief, compared to 57 percent of those questioned in a similar survey in April 1999.

A Partisan Divide On The Uninsured

By Tara Sussman Oakman, Robert J. Blendon, Andrea L. Campbell,
Alan M. Zaslavsky and John M. Benson

Sussman Oakman, who completed this paper while a doctoral candidate at Harvard, is a program analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blendon is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government; Campbell is an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Zaslavsky is a professor at Harvard Medical School; and Benson is a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health.

This paper explores the public views behind one of the central arguments about health reform: that people need insurance to get necessary and high-quality medical care. The June 2009 survey, taken as Congress and the Obama administration were beginning to make the case for -- and against -- health reform -- also revealed statistically significant differences between Democrats and Republicans: 41 percent of Democrats, but 25 percent of Republicans, thought that the uninsured were unable to get needed medical care. Similar partisan differences persist in perceptions of health care quality for the uninsured, and when looking at differences between respondents in a political party, there was a much larger gap between poor and affluent Republicans than between poor and affluent Democrats in their opinions on this issue. Concluded the authors: "Our research has shown that despite expert consensus that the uninsured face substantial hurdles in getting the medical care they need and the publicity given to these issues, public awareness of the greater access problems faced by the uninsured is limited and inconsistent....In the current political environment, it is unclear whether increased public exposure to research findings about care for the uninsured would lead to public consensus or whether other factors might continue to dominate public beliefs."

About Health Affairs

Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. Beginning in January 2010, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published weekly at The full text of each Health Affairs Web First paper is available free of charge to all Web-site visitors for a two-week period following posting, after which it switches to pay-per-view for nonsubscribers. Web First papers are supported in part by a grant from The Commonwealth Fund.