INSTITUTE INDEX: The public support for the public option

Early this morning, the Senate Finance Committee completed its work on a health insurance reform bill, which now heads to the Senate floor. President Obama called the occasion a "milestone in our effort to pass health insurance reform."

The final measure approved by the committee does not include a public health insurance option -- but that does not mean the public option is dead.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, said yesterday that there would be a public option in whatever health insurance reform bill comes out of Congress, calling it "so vitally important to create a level playing field and prevent the insurance companies from taking advantage of us."

Despite the assertion of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) that it's "about as unpopular as a garlic milkshake," the public option is supported by the majority of the American people and by doctors, as we detail in our latest by-the-numbers look at a pressing public policy issue. Click on the figure to go to the original source.

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Percent of Americans who favor creating a public health insurance option to complete with private insurance plans: 59

Percent of Americans who in September said that tackling health reform is more important than ever: 57

Percent who said that in August: 53

Percent of Americans who in the past year put off health care or had someone in their household put it off because of cost: 56

Percent of Americans who say Congress pays too little attention to ordinary Americans in the health reform debate: 71

Percent of physicians in a recent New England Journal of Medicine poll who favored a public health insurance option: 62.9

Percent who back a private health insurance system alone: 27.3

Percent of doctors in the South who supported the public option: 58.9

Percent in the Northeast: 69.7

Percent of physicians who are practice owners who support a public option: 59.7

Percent of American Medical Association members who support a public option: 62.2

Month when the AMA submitted comments to Congress opposing the public option: 6/2009

Amount the AMA's political action committee has contributed to Congressional candidates since the 2000 election cycle: $9.8 million