Public Opinion on Single-Payer, National Health Plans, and Expanding Access to Medicare Coverage
For many years, Kaiser Family Foundation has been tracking public opinion on the idea of national health plan. Since the 2016 presidential primary and Bernie Sanders’ rallying cry for “Medicare-for-all,” our polls have shown a modest increase in support for the idea of a national health plan (Figure 1), and broad support for proposals that expand Medicare (Figure 2). Overall, about six in ten adults favor a national health plan or Medicare-for-all plan (Figure 3). There is robust support among Democrats, and even somewhat among Republicans, for expansions of the Medicare program through a Medicare buy-in (Figure 6) or an “optional” Medicare-for-all proposal (Figure 7). Yet, it is unclear how much staying power this support has once people become aware of the details of any plan. Public support quickly erodes when people hear further explanation about potential tax increases or increased government control (Figure 8) and recent polling also shows many people falsely assume they would be able to keep their current health insurance under a single-payer plan (Figure 10), suggesting another potential area for decreased support.
While health care appears to be playing a role in the 2018 midterm campaigns (Figure 11) and single-payer has been a hot-button issue in some Democratic primaries, it is unclear that it will play a major role in the general election, with few voters saying a candidate’s position on a national health plan is an important factor in their vote (Figure 12). 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 and it can be used as a rallying cry to motivate the liberal base of the Democratic party, it is unlikely to be a determining issue for most 2018 midterm voters.