One would think that the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) to the top of the Democrat presidential nomination list equals growing enthusiasm for the Medicare for All plan he champions. But Sanders’ rise to frontrunner status isn’t doing much to boost the lukewarm attitudes voters give a single-payer health care plan nationally.
Pacific Research Institute’s (PRI) latest Single-Payer Poll Watch update shows the overall average support for single-payer health care fell to 46 percent and opposition climbed to 48 percent. Last month, average support and opposition were even at nearly 47 percent each.
The addition of the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll for February 2020 shows survey respondents are not overly-enthusiastic about a government-run health care proposal, even with its biggest cheerleader gaining momentum. Even in Kaiser’s January 2020 poll, confusion is king when it comes to Medicare for all plans. A whopping 67 percent of respondents thought they would get to keep their current insurance under Medicare for all, even though Sanders’ plan would outlaw private insurance. Even progressive think tanks showed lackluster results when polling a variety of messages for Medicare for All.
Also, buried in the February 2020 Kaiser poll is another question on the public option plan. Looking at the Kaiser survey numbers alone show consistent support for a public option in the high 60s and 70s since last fall. Those used to be the type of numbers Medicare for All got in early 2019.
Sanders’ rise means the debate around Medicare for All lives to fight another day. While national polls are showing an uptick in Medicare for all opposition, Democratic voters in the early primary and caucus states are giving thumbs up to single-payer. Entrance polls from the 2020 Nevada Democratic caucuses show Sanders has widespread support for voters who favor a single-payer, Medicare for All system, with 62 percent support. Of those supporters, Sanders won 48 percent, with Warren a distant second in the teens.
The New Hampshire exit polls also showed 61 percent of voters supporting either a Medicare for All or public option plan. One interesting wrinkle from that poll: six percent of voters only support a single-payer health care plan, while most others supported it as one of many options. Sanders is the leading candidate for those favoring single-payer as the Nevada numbers show.
Not to be outdone by candidates on the campaign trail, U.S. House Democrats introduced a Medicare for All bill on Feb. 26, 2020, proposing to move all Americans onto Medicare. Rep. Pramila Jayapal introduced the bill, which will create a Medicare for All program in just two years.
We also can’t look past the blowback Sanders has gotten from unions regarding Medicare for all plans. Sally Pipes, PRI’s President and CEO, recently wrote about how the Nevada culinary unions health funds would be crippled by Sanders. Politico has called Medicare for all a labor civil war.
As 2020 unfolds, PRI will continue to monitor national health care polling, to see how Sanders and other candidates plan for health care impact the country.
Evan Harris is the media relations and outreach manager at PRI.