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Two-thirds of voters support providing Medicare to every American

April 28, 2020

Topics: Quote of the Day

By Gabriela Schulte
The Hill, April 24, 2020

Q: Would you support or oppose providing Medicare to every American?

  • 69% – Net support
  • 37% – Strongly support
  • 32% – Somewhat support
  • 31% – Net oppose
  • 18% – Strongly oppose
  • 14% – Somewhat oppose

Support for Medicare for All has remained consistently strong over the past two years, according to a new Hill-HarrisX poll.

Sixty-nine percent of registered voters in the April 19-20 survey support providing Medicare to every American, just down 1 percentage point from an Oct. 19-20, 2018 poll, and within the poll’s margin of error.

Popularity for Medicare for All grew slightly among Democratic voters, with a 2 percentage point increase from 2018.

Support among independent voters was steady at 68 percent.

However, support among Republican voters declined 6 percentage points over the course of two years, from 52 percent support in 2018 to 46 percent in 2020.

Progressive lawmakers have been pointing to the coronavirus crisis to make a case for the need for Medicare for All as millions of Americans are kicked off their employee-based health insurance due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“Crises are moments of opportunity for policy change,” Robert Griffin, Research Director of the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, told Hill.TV.

“But it’s not a sure thing, it’s not going to happen automatically. It does require leadership at the end of the day,” he added.

President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, Felicia Wong, believes support for Medicare for All will only grow amid the coronavirus crisis.

“These progressive policies have been popular for a long time. I think COVID-19 will make them more popular as it becomes clear just how fragile our American political economy really is,” Wong told Hill.TV.


Public Opinion on Single-Payer, National Health Plans, and Expanding Access to Medicare Coverage

KFF, April 3, 2020

Historically, our polls have shown support for the federal government doing more to help provide health insurance for more Americans, though support among Republicans has decreased over time. But this never translated into majority support for a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan until 2016.

As Medicare-for-all becomes a staple in national conversations around health care and people become aware of the details of any plan or hear arguments on either side, it is unclear how attitudes towards such a proposal may shift. KFF polling finds public support for Medicare-for-all shifts significantly when people hear arguments about potential tax increases or delays in medical tests and treatment. KFF polling found that when such a plan is described in terms of the trade-offs (higher taxes but lower out-of-pocket costs), the public is almost equally split in their support. KFF polling also shows many people falsely assume they would be able to keep their current health insurance under a single-payer plan, suggesting another potential area for decreased support especially since most supporters (67 percent) of such a proposal think they would be able to keep their current health insurance coverage.

KFF polling finds more Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would prefer voting for a candidate who wants to build on the ACA in order to expand coverage and reduce costs rather than replace the ACA with a national Medicare-for-all plan. Additionally, KFF polling has found broader public support for more incremental changes to expand the public health insurance program in this country including proposals that expand the role of public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. And while partisans are divided on a Medicare-for-all national health plan, there is robust support among Democrats, and even support among over four in ten Republicans, for a government-run health plan, sometimes called a public option. Notably, the public does not perceive major differences in how a public option or a Medicare-for-all plan would impact taxes and personal health care costs. However, there are some differences in perceptions of how the proposals would impact those with private health insurance coverage. KFF polling in early April 2020 finds about half of Americans support both a Medicare-for-all plan and a public option. So while the general idea of a national health plan (whether accomplished through an expansion of Medicare or some other way) may enjoy fairly broad support in the abstract, it remains unclear how this issue will play out in the 2020 election and beyond.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

Two-thirds voter support of Medicare for All sounds quite good. Most politicians would consider two-thirds support to be a clear voter mandate. But Kaiser Foundation polling has found that when you qualify the question on Medicare for All, the support can shift depending on whether the qualification is perceived as favorable or unfavorable. Also, when single payer is presented as a ballot issue, simple rhetorical sound bites by opponents have been effective in defeating such proposals by wide margins.

It would be great if one of the pollsters finally asked a question that would better define the will of the nation:

Which would you prefer?

1. One single comprehensive health care program, that you would have for your entire life, that is guaranteed by our government, that covers all essential health care services, that would allow you to choose your physicians and other health care professionals and your hospitals and clinics, and that would always be affordable for you because it would be paid through taxes that are based on your ability to pay.

2. An unstable series of different forms of health care coverage throughout your life dependent on your employment (with ever-changing private plans, if coverage is even provided), poverty status (Medicaid, if qualified), age (Medicare for seniors), chronic disability or chronic renal disease (Medicare), ACA exchange plans (may qualify for government subsidies based on income), available health plans in the individual market (if premiums and cost sharing are affordable), military status (Military Health System), veteran status (VA Health Care, if qualified), Native American status (Indian Health Service, if qualified), incarceration (prison health care), child (CHIP or Medicaid, depending on family income), temporary coverage between jobs (COBRA, if premiums are affordable), health savings account (if funded), retiree health plan (if provided in whole or in part by a prior employer), uninsured (full personal risk-bearing), charity (perhaps nominal fees in a community health center), or self funded (if adequate personal wealth); with coverage that is highly variable dependent on the program in which you may be enrolled, in which your choice of physicians and hospitals is limited by provider networks selected by the insurers, or providers employed by various private or government programs (such as those listed), and affordability would be dependent on premiums, deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, concierge fees, and income levels that establish eligibility for various programs; with no assurance that any particular program will be there for you when you need it.

3. “Healthcare Reform to Make America Great Again.” Proposed reforms include repealing the Affordable Care Act, allowing individuals to deduct the full amount of premiums for individual health plans from their federal tax returns, providing block grants to finance state Medicaid programs, and allowing insurers to sell insurance across state lines.


4. Leave the system as it is (select #2).

It is difficult for individuals to grasp: 1) the simplicity, effectiveness, efficiency, ethics and affordability of the single payer model of Medicare for All, 2) the complexity and injustices of the system that we have, and 3) the gross inadequacies of the Republican rhetorical proposal. It is sad that when the dialogue on reform is reduced to buzzwords, the nation tends to line up on the political polarization scale, perpetuating inertia, and then we all suffer, except the wealthy.

Can’t we just take #1, and go with it?

Stay informed! Visit www.pnhp.org/qotd to sign up for daily email updates.

About the Commentator, Don McCanne

Don McCanne is a retired family practitioner who dedicated the 2nd phase of his career to speaking and writing extensively on single payer and related issues. He served as Physicians for a National Health Program president in 2002 and 2003, then as Senior Health Policy Fellow. For two decades, Don wrote "Quote of the Day", a daily health policy update which inspired HJM.

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