If you’ve been in a profession or active in a hobby for many years, no doubt you’ve had many times when you knew something in your gut even though you didn’t have evidence to prove it. That’s the feeling I’ve had in mine for the last several months about the hotly debated issue of national health care.

Now, little by little, what my gut has been telling me is being borne out by more and more evidence; good evidence provided by people with no axe to grind. The latest comes through a journalist friend of long standing, Randy Stapilus, our inestimable host here at Ridenbaugh Press.

Several weeks ago, he reported on this blog, an independent polling agency in Washington State was hired to take the public pulse on government-backed health care. Voters were asked if they favored or opposed the specific reform bill passed in the US Senate. You’ll recall that bill did not contain a public option to allow people to accept or refuse some type of government care program; the one on which every Republican senator voted “no.”

Results in this Washington State case: 39% favored, 54% opposed and 7% were undecided. Solid rejection. Straight forward question and the outcome seemed likely reliable.

But, when asked a second question, whether the same people favored or opposed “the national government offering everyone the choice of buying into a government-administered health insurance plan, like the Medicare those 65 older have, that would compete with private plans,” what do you think the numbers were?

Well, turns out, 66% liked the idea, 24% opposed and 10% were undecided. How’s that for a turnaround? Same legislation; same government option; same people being polled; different question seeking the same information. A very different result. Likely just as reliable.

That’s where my gut’s been on this issue for a long time. The problem has been that many supporters and avowed opponents of what’s on the legislative heath care menu have used pollsters asking questions designed to get a specific answer: for or against. All sides have been doing that. Then tilted results hit the media.

Such polling is called “push” polling. “When did you last beat your spouse” or “why did you beat your spouse” are two questions on the same point that can yield different answers. Which you ask depends on what you want your poll to show. You can predetermine outcome.

Stapilus makes the point … and he’s absolutely right … when you talk about government-backed health care, you have to know how the questions were asked. By whom. And why.

Back to my gut. It’s been telling me if people across the country were approached on this issue with unbiased information and offered a legitimate choice, we wouldn’t have the useless and divisive national cacophony of nearly a year. Most people are being eaten alive by costs of care; many others can’t afford it and the current system is not only in danger of collapse but is also threatening our national prosperity. We can’t go on this way. Period.

Barb and I have had Medicare for a number of years. We also carry “medigap” policies to take care of some costs Medicare either doesn’t pay or won’t. Not once … not once … have we had a problem. It has worked so well I wish all our kids and their families had something like it. While I have no doubt some of the anecdotal stories of individuals having negative results with Medicare are true, I can’t help but feel there were other contributing factors influencing the outcomes. As a general statement, we’ve found it works.

I’m not advocating a strict Medicare approach for all. But I do advocate individual choice for all. And if Medicare works, I truly believe we can design a similar approach to better use of our health care dollars and can fix what’s broken. If someone wants to go the other way and pay rates for strictly private insurance, great! Go for it!

The miscreants who say government can’t run the post office or AMTRAK or the VA are avoiding the real issue. They’re blowing smoke. We HAVE a system of government backed care that works and most often works well. Turn private industry loose to co-develop a bifurcated program … or multiple programs … and I know it can be done.

We’ve enjoyed a combination government-private insurance program for years in our family. I strongly believe it can be the matrix for a workable, sustainable national system.

Common sense … and my gut … say so!

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