Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues

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 a national health plan. Our polls have shown a modest increase in support for the idea of a national health plan (Figure 1) but relatively stable support for the federal government doing more to help provide health insurance for more Americans since before the passing of the 2010 Affordable Care (Figure 2). Recently, we have found broad support for proposals that expand the role of public programs like Medicare and Medicaid (Figure 3). Overall, about six in ten adults favor a national health plan or Medicare-for-all plan (Figure 4). Yet, how politicians discuss these different proposals does affect public support (Figure 5 and Figure 6). There is robust support among Democrats, and even support among Republicans, for an expansion of the Medicare program through a Medicare buy-in or a Medicaid buy-in proposal (Figure 7). In addition, nearly half of Republicans and majorities of independents and Democrats favor an optional Medicare-for-all plan (Figure 8). Yet, it is unclear how much staying power this support has once people become aware of the details of any plan or hear arguments on either side. Public support for Medicare-for-all shifts significantly when people hear arguments about potential tax increases or delays in medical tests and treatment (Figure 9) 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.

During the 2018 midterm elections, few voters said a candidate’s position on a national health plan was an important factor in their vote (Figure 11) and a larger share of Democrats now say they want House Democrats to focus on improving and protecting the ACA rather than passing a national Medicare-for-all plan (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, it remains unclear how the future of this issue – which really gained traction during the 2016 presidential primary and Bernie Sanders’ rallying cry for “Medicare-for-all” – will play out.