The majority of Americans are in favor of a universal healthcare system for the U.S.  In fact, a majority has favored it since Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office.  So why don't we have it?  An analysis of polls published a few months back shows why an idea that has such strong and continuing public support can be politically vulnerable.

In an article in the May 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Larry Jacobs looked at all the available polling data.  What he found was that if you ask Americans the straight-on question, "Are you in favor of a universal health care system supported by taxes?" a majority – 55% to 60% – will say yes.  But if you ask them, "Would you be in favor of such a system if it would restrict your choice, restrict your access to specialists, or produce long waits for appointments, or cost you more in co-pays and deductibles?" a majority will say no.

Does this mean that healthcare reform is doomed from the get-go?  No.  But it does show its political vulnerability.  Opponents of any reform bill do not have to convince the American people that the U.S. cannot afford universal care, or that it is somehow a "socialist" idea.  In order to stop a universal healthcare bill, they only have to convince the public that giving other Americans better access to healthcare will mean that they, personally, have worse access in one way or another.

Of course, the reality is that the mechanics of true healthcare reform based on giving all Americans real value for their money is not something you can fit on a bumper sticker or in a ten-second sound bite.