As the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, the political and public policy debate is set for a renewed battle over single-payer health care.
The latest PRI Single-Payer Poll Watch shows a sharp increase in single-payer health care support through April 2020. Favorability leaped roughly 10 points to 56.5 percent, according to the average of the four most recent polls. Opposition did increase from the March update, from 30 to 34 percent.
The polls behind the change in data include the April Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll, a Hill and HarrisX daily poll, and a Morning Consult and Politico poll. Morning Consult noted that it is some of the highest levels of support registered for single-payer health care since June 2019.
Given that we are in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic with serious health care implications, it’s not unexpected to see widespread adoption of a “magic bullet” for health care. But there is plenty of evidence to stop any real considerations for a Medicare for all future in America.
PRI’s President and CEO Sally C. Pipes recently reiterated that countries with single-payer systems are not doing any better in a recent PRI podcast. She said that since governments decide how much will be spent on healthcare in single-payer countries like Italy, the United Kingdom, and Canada, those countries have experienced rationed care, strapped health care budgets, and increased demand.
In a recent Washington Examiner piece, Pipes reminds the public that there is no middle ground between private insurance and Medicare for all, either. Even with self-proclaimed moderates like newly crowned 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden embracing a public option plan. By the way, Biden said the coronavirus impact hasn’t changed his mind on opposition to a single-payer health care plan, but as Pipes has noted, a public option is a stepping stone to single-payer.
Despite the growing support, there is the potential for another major shift as Americans learn what single-payer would really mean for them. As the Kaiser Family Foundation points out, Americans are yet to understand the differences between a single-payer health care plan and public option.
According to its recent presentation, “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.”
Michael Tanner, a senior fellow with the Cato Institute, argued that Medicare for All would not have spared the United States health system any pain when dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, reminding readers the private sector has pivoted the quickest to help, “We might have seen even quicker results from the private sector without the government regulations and bureaucracy that slowed it down. Does anyone really believe that we should put the same government that can’t manage the acquisition and delivery of ventilators and personal protective equipment in charge of even more of our health-care decisions?”
The allure of Medicare for All is tempting, especially during a once in a generation pandemic. Advocates like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and others may now see the political path forward due to overwhelming public support for Medicare for All through the coronavirus pandemic.
Hillary Clinton as much as admitted so on Tuesday in an online conversation with Biden. “And then it needs to be part of a much-larger system that eventually and quickly, I hope, gets us to universal health care . . . This would be a terrible crisis to waste as the old saying goes.”
The drastic shift in popular support during the COVID-19 crisis shows free-market advocates have their work cut out for them to educate the American people about what Medicare-for-All would really mean for them.
Evan Harris is the media relations and outreach coordinator for Pacific Research Institute.