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Poll: Majority of Americans want U.S. to invest in public health

A new poll conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found a majority of Americans prefer that the federal government invest in public health.

According to an executive summary (.pdf) of the polling data:

A majority (52 percent) of Americans prefer a bigger government providing more services in health, rather than a smaller government providing fewer services in health (37 percent). In addition, six in ten believe that if U.S. spends more now on measures to improve health and prevention, the country would save money in long run.

The public was asked about their preference for the size of government spending on health in the future. Respondents were asked whether they preferred the smaller government with fewer services in health or a bigger government with more services in health. CBS News/New York Times asked a similar question this year about government services in general, not specific to health services.

The CBS News/New York Times poll found 55 percent of the public preferred a smaller government with fewer services, while a third preferred a bigger government with more services. Focusing the question exclusively on health in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health poll changed the result, with 52 percent preferring a bigger government with more health services and 37 percent preferring a smaller government with fewer health services. This shows that health spending remains for many a popular area for government spending (Chart 1).

People were also asked their views about investing in health. Six in ten (60 percent) believed that if U.S. spends more now on measures to improve health and prevention, the country would save money in long run, while about three in ten (31 percent) believe the country would not save money in the long run by spending money now.

States facing budget shortfalls, including Florida, have made cuts to public health programs in the past year.

Women’s and children’s health services, in particular, have been the most frequent victims of budget cuts in Florida. Healthy Start, an organization that provides prenatal care services for at-risk mothers and health care services for children in Florida, lost millions in funding. The state’s health departments also suffered big cuts this year. Funds were also cut from a community health center that provided health services to at-risk seasonal farmworkers in Apopka. Deeper budget cuts have been predicted for the upcoming year.

The poll also found that a majority of those polled (56 percent) considered “providing subsidies to help the uninsured buy health insurance or get health care services … one of the top priorities” for the federal government.

This is one of the few aspects of Florida’s state health insurance exchange program that differs from states implementing the Affordable Care Act. Florida’s plans do not include subsidies to help lower-income individuals buy coverage through the state’s exchange, whereas federal plans do.

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