State News

Poll: N.C. residents still support health care reform

Posted March 19, 2010
Updated March 20, 2010

— As the U.S. House of Representatives prepared Friday for its upcoming vote on a $940 billion health care reform bill, a new poll released shows North Carolinians' support for reform hasn't wavered in recent months.

The results of the Elon Poll, taken March 14-17, shows that 78 percent of respondents believe the health care system needs reform, mirroring results of the October poll, when 76.6 percent said reform is necessary.

Fifteen percent say the system is fine as it is, and 6 percent say something needs to be done but the government shouldn't make the change.

The poll surveyed 579 North Carolina residents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

Meanwhile in Raleigh Friday, health care reform supporters marched and rallied outside the downtown Raleigh office of Democratic 2nd District congressman Rep. Bob Etheridge.

Etheridge, who remained undecided about the House bill until Friday evening, said in a statement posted on his Web site that he will support the bill, adding that it will "save lives and save money."

The House bill is expected to cost $940 billion over 10 years and reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over that span.

One of those rallying Friday in Raleigh was Scott Taylor, who has two sons with autism. He's been denied therapy and treatments for his son, he says, because it's considered a pre-existing condition.

He's paying more than 18,000 a year for weekly therapy and treatment for one of his sons.

"It's considered a diagnosis of exclusion, where therapies that would otherwise be covered are not because of the autism diagnosis," Taylor said.

The state's largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, has opposed earlier versions of the president's plan, but now says the House bill is better than no bill at all.

"This is not a perfect bill by any means, but we feel to have no bill would be a worse alternative," said Barbara Morales Burke, Blue Cross vice president for health policy. "At this point, we're looking forward to how we'll implement changes if it passes."

Earlier this week, opponents rallied outside Etheridge's office. They aren't giving up the fight.

In what they're calling the "Last Stand Against the Health Care Takeover," an emergency rally is scheduled for noon Saturday in Washington D.C., three hours before Obama meets with the House Democratic caucus to push the vote forward.

Democratic leaders say they have the 216 votes to pass it, despite Republican opposition and last-minute disagreement among Democrats.

Twenty-two Democrats have already said they plan to vote against the bill, including three from North Carolina – 7th District Congressman Mike McIntyre, 8th District Congressman Larry Kissell and 11th District Congressman Heath Shuler.

"The method of funding makes it impossible for me to change my vote on that bill," Kissell said.

"Health care reform is needed, but the bill before us is too expensive and tries to do too much too soon," McIntyre added.

For Taylor though, change can't come soon enough.

"The more stories I hear, I feel I don't have it quite so bad, Taylor said. "At the same time, when you're living with it every day, it's a whole other story."

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