Health care has dominated the early Democrat presidential debates, with progressive candidates battling “moderates” over the question of a public option versus a Medicare for All plan that would outlaw private insurance. As the public has focused more on what single-payer would mean for them, such as having to pay billions of dollars in new taxes or losing their employer-based health coverage, the strong initial support for the concepts of single-payer has dropped like a rock.
Consider that a January 2019 Kaiser Family Foundation survey showed that 71 percent of respondents were in favor of the concept of Medicare for All, but support plummeted to 37 percent once voters learned it would eliminate private health insurance or require higher taxes.
To track public opinion on single-payer, Pacific Research Institute (PRI) today is launching the PRI Single-Payer Poll Watch, which will feature a regularly updated polling aggregate on single-payer much like the Real Clear Politics aggregate polling on the presidential polls. Our Single-Payer Poll Watch will be updated every few weeks as new national polling is continually released on Medicare for All and single-payer.
In our initial PRI Single-Payer Poll Watch, which encompasses an aggregate of polling from late September thru mid-November, the average support for single-payer health care is at 43 percent, with 47 percent opposed. This shows that the additional scrutiny on single-payer in the presidential debates is increasing opposition to single-payer.
As voters have learned more about single-payer and moved away from it, leading Democratic presidential contenders are quickly distancing themselves from a costly scheme they initially embraced to court liberal support.
Sally Pipes, PRI’s President and CEO, keyed in on this trend, saying, “Senator Elizabeth Warren has responded to her decline in the polls by embracing a public option for the first few years of her time in the White House—and calling on Congress to pass Medicare for All in year three.”
Before Warren changed her tune about a public option, questions over how she would pay for her Medicare for all proposal dogged her on the campaign trail, turning into an albatross for Warren’s campaign and leading to a significant drop in support for her in recent weeks.
Before withdrawing from the 2020 presidential race, California Senator Kamala Harris said she misinterpreted a debate question about abolishing all private health care, supporting a private insurance option under her Medicare for all plan. Many pundits have observed that her big mistake on single-payer doomed her campaign. Desiring to avoid these mistakes, Former Vice President Joe Biden’s health care plan was hailed as “Obamacare 2.0,” Medicare for all “lite,” or “radically incremental,” though a so-called public option is still a step on the road to single-payer.
As more questions have been asked about what Medicare for all looks like or who pays for it, and candidates struggle to answer questions, public opposition looks to be increasing. PRI’s Single-Payer Poll Watch will continue to document these public opinion trends throughout the upcoming campaign.
Evan Harris is the media relations and outreach manager for Pacific Research Institute.