News Release

New Reason-Rupe Poll: Americans Think Health Care and Broccoli Mandates Are Unconstitutional

Voters want to shop around for health insurance and are open to changing Medicare for people not yet receiving it

As the Supreme Court hears challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act this week, a new Reason-Rupe poll of 1,200 adults finds 62 percent of Americans believe it is unconstitutional for Congress to mandate the purchase of health insurance, while 30 percent think requiring health insurance is constitutional.

Legal experts have suggested that if Congress has the power to require individuals to buy health care insurance, it may also mandate that Americans buy broccoli. The Reason-Rupe poll finds 87 percent of Americans believe Congress does not have the power to require the purchase of broccoli, while 8 percent say Congress can force you to buy vegetables.

Reason-Rupe finds 54 percent of Americans think the health care law will result in the rationing of health care services. Half of Americans have an unfavorable view of the health care law, while 32 percent have a favorable view of it. Similarly, 49 percent say the law should be repealed and 36 percent would let it stand.

When it comes to addressing their health care needs, just 23 percent of Americans trust the government. That’s less than half of the 50 percent who say they trust health insurance companies and considerably lower than the 84 percent who trust their doctors.

The Reason-Rupe poll results reveal some health care reforms that the American public would support. Over two-thirds, 69 percent, of Americans would like to be able to shop for health insurance in the same way they shop for auto insurance. And many are willing to move away from our existing system to do so: 48 percent of Americans would prefer to receive the money their employers spend on health care as part of their paycheck and then shop for their own health care plans. Forty-one percent would like to continue to get insurance through their employer.

If they were allowed to shop for health care plans across state lines, 43 percent of Americans say insurance premiums would go down and 23 percent believe they’d go up.

In thinking about the quality and cost of their own health care, 67 percent of Americans tell Reason-Rupe that public sector workers have better health care benefits than private sector workers. Twenty-two percent say the benefits are about the same, and 4 percent say private sector workers get better benefits than government workers.

With Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plans back in the news, the Reason-Rupe poll also finds voters are open to changing the future of Medicare. For people not yet in the program and under the age of 55 right now, 65 percent of Americans favor changing Medicare into a program that would give recipients a credit that could be used to purchase private health insurance. Just 24 percent would oppose the change. If those modifications were made to Medicare, 34 percent of Americans think the quality of care would improve, 33 percent believe it would stay the same and 24 percent say it would worsen.

A majority of Americans, 52 percent, support the health care law’s provision that prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. However that support collapses when trade-offs are presented. Only 37 percent would support the pre-existing conditions law if tax increases were needed to pay for it; just 38 percent would support it if it caused higher premiums; and 41 percent would support it if it caused longer wait times to see a doctor.

The Reason-Rupe poll also asked about organ donation. Most Americans, 55 percent, believe healthy adults under medical supervision should be allowed to sell their own organs. Thirty-four percent oppose the sale of organs.

Full Poll Online

The complete Reason-Rupe survey is online at and here (.pdf).

This Reason-Rupe poll, conducted March 10-20, 2012, surveyed a random, national sample of 1,200 adults by telephone (704 on landlines, 496 on cell phones). The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The poll was conducted for Reason Foundation by NSON Opinion Strategy.

This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues. This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.


Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109