One of the first national health care polls of 2020 shows the continued lukewarm support for a national single-payer health care plan. Adding the January 2020 Kaiser survey to the Pacific Research Institute (PRI) Single-Payer Poll Watch brings the average support and opposition for single-payer health care to almost dead even, with the average support at 47 percent and average opposition at 47.25.
The January 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll showed support for single-payer health care inched from 53 to 56 percent, while opposition dropped slightly from 43 to 41 percent compared to the November 2019 poll.
Last month, our poll watch update hinted that single-payer health care may be seriously losing its appeal. Along with the Kaiser poll, surveys from the Iowa Caucus and individual state polls reiterate these findings.
A CNN Iowa Caucus entrance poll showed that caucusgoers overwhelmingly chose health care as the top issue that mattered most in their support for a candidate at 42 percent. Climate change clocked in at a distant second, slightly ahead of income equality and foreign policy. A December 2019 Quinnipiac poll showed health care support was well-ahead of climate change on voters’ minds, too.
Iowans’ focus on health care doesn’t mean everyone is on the single-payer bandwagon. We’ve previously documented the pivot away from enthusiastic support for single-payer health care from candidates like Elizabeth Warren to a more muted call for a so-called public option, as advanced by candidate Amy Klobuchar. Iowan voters ranking health care as their top concern cuts both ways – including those who favor single-payer and those who are very concerned by a government takeover of health care in the United States.
Sally C. Pipes, PRI’s President and CEO, recently wrote that Americans shouldn’t pine for a Medicare for all system. Pipes points to our Canadian neighbors embrace of a Medicare for all system. Like the United States celebrates the American Dream, Canadians hold their universal health care system in a similar light. But instead of prosperity, freedom, and a white-picket fence, Canadians are left with long wait times for referral treatments and orthopedic surgeries, strained resources, and outlawed private insurance coverage.
The January 2020 Kaiser poll also shows the growing support for a government-administered health plan, or public option. Kaiser survey respondents supported it by a whopping 68 percent. That voters are jumping off the single-payer bandwagon and opting for the “middle ground” of a public option is further proof of the declining popularity of Medicare-for-All.
When survey respondents were further asked why they favored a government administered public option but oppose a Medicare for all plan, 32 percent said they like that it as an option and 13 percent wanted private plans and competition.
Respondents could be choosing between the lesser of two bad choices, but PRI has written about the danger of a public option before. A brief look at state polls reiterate the change in health care policy support at the national level.
A January 2020 Public Policy Institute of California poll showed respondents failed to rank health care in their top five important issues, with homelessness and housing costs taking the top spots. A January 2020 Michigan poll shows that a majority in the state support “Medicare for all who want it,” the clever policy slogan coined by candidate and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
One thing is clear – as the calendar moves closer to November: policies may not matter as much as politics.
The APVoteCast survey from Monday night’s Iowa Caucus found that 88 percent of caucusgoers said electability was very important, while 66 percent said having the best policy ideas was highly important.
Single-payer health care may be a quickly forgotten policy purity test that dominated the 2019 debates and campaign trail as Democratic voters narrow down the field of candidates.
As new polls are released on health care, PRI will continue to share updates and analysis to see if voters have the appetite for single-payer proposals, or, if they’ll crash and burn like a bad voting app.
Evan Harris is the media relations and outreach manager for PRI.