KVOR host Johnson claimed most Americans are “scared” of national health care; recent polls say otherwise

Discussing the issue of national health care on his September 12 broadcast, News Radio 740 KVOR host Russ Johnson brushed off a caller's assertion that “62 percent” of Americans backed universal coverage. Instead, Johnson stated, “national health care ... scares most Americans,” because they prefer “free markets and free trade.” In fact, recent polling shows that most Americans back some kind of national insurance program.

News Radio 740 KVOR host Russ Johnson on September 12 dismissed a caller's statement that a poll from a “couple of years ago” showed that “62 percent” of Americans support the idea of national health insurance, claiming that instead, “national health care ... scares most Americans.” Johnson asserted that the public prefers “free markets and free trade,” but recent polls indicate that a majority of Americans indeed support some version of universal health coverage.

During the Afternoon Show broadcast, the caller cited an ABC/Washington Post poll to substantiate the 62 percent figure, and later asked, “How many people in America do you think support national health insurance?” Johnson responded, “20 percent,” a figure he confessed he “just made ... up.” Later in the program, Johnson said that according to a note handed to him, the figures the caller cited “were from 2003.” Reminding listeners that the caller was “saying that 62 percent of Americans want health care,” Johnson stated, “Maybe they did in 2003. It's 2007 now.”

While a 2003 ABC/Washington Post poll did conclude that 62 percent of the respondents preferred “a universal health insurance program, in which everyone is covered,” over “the current health insurance system in the United States,” more recent polling from May and June 2007 found that a majority of the American public still wants a national health insurance program, as Media Matters for America has noted:

  • In a May 4-6 CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, 64 percent of respondents said they “think the government should provide a national health insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes.”
  • In a May 31-June 5 poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International for the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53 percent of respondents said they wanted a presidential candidate to propose a “new health plan that would make a major effort to provide health insurance for all or nearly all of the uninsured,” even if it “would involve a substantial increase in spending,” in contrast with 21 percent in favor of a “new health plan that is more limited and would cover only some groups of the uninsured BUT would involve less new spending” and 17 percent in favor of "[k]eeping things basically as they are."
  • A May 29-31 poll conducted by the Democratic polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner found that a majority of likely voters favored:
  • A "proposal that provided every American with health insurance, even if it meant your taxes or health care premiums would increase as a result";
  • A "single-payer health care plan";
  • A plan that would “require businesses to either cover their employees or make a contribution to a pool that help fund health care coverage for the uninsured. It would require all Americans to get health insurance and provide subsidies for Americans who could not afford it. It would also make insurance more affordable by creating new tax credits, expanding Medicaid and taking steps to contain health care costs.”

The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll also found that a majority of its respondents placed a higher priority on national health care or access to “health care coverage” than the kind of “free market” plan Johnson described. Given the choice between two statements, 57 percent of those polled said that "[k]nowing I will always have health care coverage is the more important thing to me" compared with 38 percent who said that “maintaining choices and seeing my own doctor is the more important thing to me.” Fifty-five percent of respondents said they would “favor ... a proposal that provided every American with health insurance, even if it meant you may have to change your current health care provider and insurance” compared with 41 percent who said they would oppose that proposal.

From the September 12 broadcast of News Radio 740 KVOR's Afternoon Show:

CALLER: I think this idea that you're talking about is simply a subsidies for insurance companies. A couple of years ago, The Washington Post and ABC News did a poll of Americans, and in that poll 62 percent of Americans said that they would like to have national health insurance similar to Medicare, instead of having the current private health insurance system that we have.

JOHNSON: Do you think that Americans would be willing to spend $800 billion, or whatever it's going to be? I think that whole thing, I respect Hillary Clinton on this, when she tried to take the issue on --

CALLER: That's not what you said.

JOHNSON: -- during the beginning of the Clinton presidency, but now I think national health care, universal coverage, whatever you want to call it, scares most Americans. That's why today I'm interested in finding out if they would support a system that would require people to have insurance, and then we'll go forward with a system where they would get a tax credit, which I don't like as much, or maybe some kind of deduction, like President Bush was planning or suggesting earlier this year, where he'd give $15,000 deduction per family, $7,500 for families, and we'd get away from this giving tax credits only to businesses or employers.

CALLER: Universal health insurance doesn't scare most Americans. Most Americans support it. Hillary Clinton supported giving money to the insurance companies. Dennis Kucinich supports eliminating the insurance companies and having the government take care of our health insurance.

JOHNSON: I don't think most Americans want that. We want --

CALLER: The poll says they do.

JOHNSON: -- free markets and free trade. Well, that's what I say. You say 62 percent of Americans -- and maybe that's the poll that you ran -- and I, I'm trying to be --

CALLER: I -- The Washington Post ran it.

JOHNSON: Listen, [caller], I'm trying to be very nice today.

CALLER: Well, I, I'm just wondering why you're trying to distort the facts.

JOHNSON: Because, I don't think that I am distorting the facts.

CALLER: [Unintelligible]

JOHNSON: You have a disagreement with me. You want --

CALLER: What's your facts?

JOHNSON: -- national health care, appar -- apparently.

CALLER: How many people in America do you think support national health insurance?

JOHNSON: 20 percent.

CALLER: What's your basis for that?

JOHNSON: I just made it up.

CALLER: Right. Your, your --

JOHNSON: Where do, what's the basis for your number?

CALLER: -- yours has no relevance to anything.

JOHNSON: What's the basis of your number?

CALLER: A Washington Post/ABC News poll of Americans.

JOHNSON: I hadn't looked it up yet.

CALLER: Look it up.

JOHNSON: If it's 62 percent of Americans want it, I don't care if 90 percent of Americans want it.


JOHNSON: If it's a bad idea, it's a bad idea.

CALLER: How is it a bad idea?

JOHNSON: It's because it'll bankrupt our country. Because we don't have enough to pay for it, that's why. Because we don't want to spend $800 billion over 10 years giving people tax credits, much less giving them universal health care coverage. I wish I had more time to continue this ridiculousness with you, but I can't. I got to get the news, and I'm sugary sweet today. Russ Johnson. KVOR.


JOHNSON: A note's getting slipped to me right now. Thank you. Uh-huh. OK. Mmm-hmm. OK. The figures that [the caller] was quoting about 62 percent of Americans wanting national health care were from 2003. Greg, you're a genius. Thank you. You saved my -- you saved the entire show.


JOHNSON: Could you just have people when they call me tell me if they're friend or foe, because I felt [earlier caller] was kind of foe today. He was saying 62 percent of Americans want national health care? News to me. Maybe they did in 2003. It's 2007 now.