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New poll shows bipartisan support for public health option

A new poll shows that a majority of Americans favor access to a public option for those who are unable to get healthcare coverage from an employer.

According to a study released Thursday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland and conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org (WPO), 75 percent of those surveyed support a public healthcare option, including 59 percent of Republicans.

The national survey of 800 Americans, conducted Sept. 26-Oct. 5, found bipartisan support of many aspects of health reform currently on the table.

"The bad news is that the current partisan debate seems to be fracturing the public consensus on the role of government in healthcare," said WPO Director Steven Kull. "The good news is that among the public, Republicans and Democrats are still able to find common ground on specific reforms."

According to the survey, a majority still says the government is responsible for basic healthcare, and there is bipartisan support for a limited public option, regulation of the health insurance industry, tort reform and cross-state purchasing.

In a 2008 WPO survey, 77 percent – with clear majorities from all parties – said the government "should be responsible for ensuring that its citizens can meet their basic need for healthcare." However, the latest poll found that Republican support for the proposition has dropped from 55 percent to 29 percent. Overall, support has dropped 17 points, with 60 now saying that government is responsible.

The study also found a majority support a requirement that insurance companies accept every applicant for coverage, with 82 percent overall, 90 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 73 percent of Republicans in favor.

Government regulation of malpractice suits against doctors had modest support at 55 percent, while cross-state purchasing of insurance is strongly supported by large majorities of Americans across the partisan spectrum.

As debate over healthcare reform rages in Congress, 24 percent of the public say the debate is drawing them closer to the Democrats' ideas and 21 percent say they're closer to the Republicans' ideas. But 50 percent said they are less supportive of both parties' ideas, according to the survey.

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