Playing fair: Fairness beliefs and health policy preferences in the United States

Julia Lynch, Sarah E. Gollust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Conventional wisdom suggests that the best way to persuade Americans to support changes in health care policy is to appeal to their self- interest - particularly to concerns about their economic and health security. An alternative strategy, framing problems in the health care system to emphasize inequalities, could also, however, mobilize public support for policy change by activating underlying attitudes about the unfairness or injustice of these inequalities. In this article, we draw on original data from a nationally representative survey to describe Americans' beliefs about fairness in the health domain, including their perceptions of the fairness of particular inequalities in health and health care. We then assess the infuence of these fairness considerations on opinions about the appropriate role of private actors versus government in providing health insurance. Respondents believe inequalities in access to and quality of health care are more unfair than unequal health outcomes. Even after taking into account self- interest considerations and the other usual suspects driving policy opinions, perceptions of the unfairness of inequalities in health care strongly infuence respondents' preferences for government provision of health insurance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-887
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of health politics, policy and law
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010


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