Newswise — A new poll by UTHealth, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and Zogby International showed that likely voters were divided in their support of healthcare reform and the packages being offered by President Barack Obama and the Republican leadership prior to the start of a bipartisan meeting Feb. 25. The White House Web site reports that the meeting was called to hear any and all new ideas to put Americans in control of their own health care.

“The evening before President Obama's Health Summit, about 1,700 Americans told us they are not quite on board with Obama's proposal of federal pricing of health insurance premiums, and they are equally split between the Obama plan and the Republican plan,” said S. Ward Casscells, M.D., vice president of external relations and public policy and the John Edward Tyson Distinguished Professor in Cardiology at UTHealth.

“But they credit the Democrats with a sincere commitment to making this meeting work. Also a narrow majority are doubtful that healthcare reform will pass this year. Now we'll see if this six-hour meeting changes anyone's mind. A lot of lives and livelihoods depend on it," Casscells said.

UTHealth commissioned Zogby International to conduct a six-question online survey of 1,665 likely voters from Feb. 24-25. The margin of error is +/- 2.5 percentage points. This is the second national healthcare reform poll performed this month by Casscells and John Zogby, chairman of Zogby International. A third is planned next week to gauge the impact of the health summit.

Here are key findings:

• When asked which of the following do you think is most serious about putting the nation's needs ahead of political gain for health reform: Democrats, Republicans, neither or both?, Democrats came out the strong favorite for responsible governing with 36 percent versus the Republicans with 23 percent. Thirty-one percent reported neither. o The data gets more interesting when you look at the breakouts among the respondents’ political party affiliation, Casscells said. While 67 percent of self-identified Democrats thought the Democrats were serious about the nation’s needs, about half (48 percent) of self-identified Republicans felt their party was putting the nation’s needs above politics.

• Forty-seven percent of likely voters disagree, and 47 percent agree with President Obama's proposal to give the federal government the authority to regulate health insurance premium rate increases. Opinion on the issue is polarized with more strongly disagreeing (38 percent) than strongly agreeing (30 percent).

• Respondents are split between President Obama’s healthcare plan (40 percent) and the Republican alternative (40 percent), while 12 percent prefer neither.

• About half of the nation preferred starting over (52 percent) vs. making amendments to President Obama's healthcare plan (34 percent).

• Thirty-two percent of Americans believed there was a 50/50 chance of getting any healthcare reform legislation passed in 2010.

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