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Poll: Public Says Voice Not Heard In Health Debate

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Poll: Public Says Voice Not Heard In Health Debate

Poll: Public Says Voice Not Heard In Health Debate

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR news. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

While the politicians haggle over the details of health care, the public feels largely left out of the debate. That's one of the findings in a new poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. We have two reports on health care this morning.

First, NPR's Julie Rovner talks to some of the people feeling ignored.

JULIE ROVNER: The cavernous new Capitol Visitor Center is just a couple of blocks from where the Finance Committee has been trying to decide the fate of the nation's health care system. But to Nancy Turtenwald of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it might as well be thousands of miles. One of her biggest concerns, she said, is that members of Congress simply aren't listening to people like her.

Ms. NANCY TURTENWALD: Because I don't think they're people like us, you know? How often do they go and buy gas and bread and stuff to see what it's really like out there for the people like us, and the health care and the cost of health care?

ROVNER: And who are the lawmakers listening to?

Ms. TURTENWALD: Lobbyists and people that'll get them reelected.

ROVNER: Preet Kang(ph) of Washington, D.C. was showing off the new visitor center to her husband, who hadn't seen it yet. But even though she lives inside the Beltway, she doesn't think the average person's voice is getting heard in the health care debate, either. And she agrees with Nancy Turtenwald about whose voice is getting heard.

Ms. PREET KANG: The health insurance companies, you know, the whole health care industrial complex.

ROVNER: Now, Kang, who was walking around with a Health Care Now sticker on her purse, couldn't be much further apart on the political spectrum from Damien Westrick(ph). He's a retired hospital administrator from Hillsboro, Illinois, and a self-described Fox News fan. But he's got a similar view of what's going on over in the Hart Building.

Mr. DAMIEN WESTRICK: They're not listening to the American people. If they were, they would take time to look at the whole issue.

ROVNER: That nonscientific poll pretty well paralleled the more scientific findings in the new NPR/Kaiser/Harvard poll. Mollyann Brodie is the Kaiser Foundation's polling director.

Ms. MOLLYANN BRODIE (Director Polling, Kaiser Family Foundation): Most people don't feel like they personally have a voice in this debate. In fact, 71 percent told us that Congress was paying too little attention to what people like them were saying. And two-thirds say that there's no group in Washington that's representing their views.

ROVNER: But one finding that did surprise researchers, says Brodie, is that the public doesn't uniformly think that interest group involvement in writing a health bill is a bad thing.

Ms. BRODIE: About half thought that interest groups have too narrow of a focus and that they shouldn't be at the table. On the other hand, about half thought that they actually have a really important perspective to add and that they play an important role in the health care system and that they should be at the table.

ROVNER: Groups the public said they trust to recommend the right thing for the country include those representing nurses, doctors and patients, yet those are among the groups that most experts say are most guilty of overusing the health care system. And they are the groups whose behavior is targeted for change in the pending health care bills. Bob Blendon of the Harvard School of Public Health says that creates a disconnect for the public.

Professor BOB BLENDON (Harvard School of Public Health): In our poll, when you say who's responsible for the current problems they see in health care, it's insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and the federal government. It's not focused at all on the way the system currently operates in terms of delivery.

ROVNER: And that's a big part of what's creating so much confusion, he says. The public and the policymakers not only don't agree on a solution, they don't agree on who's causing the problem in the first place.

Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

MONTAGNE: And you can get complete results of that poll as well as all our coverage of health care overhaul debate at

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