Growing Popularity of Medicare-for-All Puts Opponents on the Defensive
Recent attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare, and Medicaid have not only solidified the support for these programs, but they have also led voters and politicians to look to improve and expand our health care status quo. This has increased the strength and urgency of the push for single-payer, Medicare-for-All as the solution to our current expensive, fragmented health care system.
The public is squarely behind the call to expand and improved Medicare and make it available to everyone. A recent poll found that 6 in 10 Americans support Medicare-for-All, including nearly three-fourths of Democrats and almost 55 percent of independents. This represents an increase of 10 points from the 65 percent of Democrats who believed single-payer Medicare-for-All was a “good idea” in 2017.
Even an increasing number of Republicans support Medicare-for-All with 44 percent of Trump voters and 46 percent of Republicans, generally, reporting support. This is double the 23 percent of Republicans in 2016 and nearly double the 25 percent in 2017 who supported single-payer Medicare-for-All. Republicans cited, among other reasons, the high cost of premiums, especially for low-income adults living in states that have not expanded Medicaid, as a key reason for their support.
Medicare-for-All has gained traction across ideological lines in part because of growing support for the government’s responsibility to guarantee access to health care. A recent poll found that 60 percent of Americans believe that it is the government is responsible for ensuring health care coverage, the highest proportion in a decade.
The Medicare-for-All movement is also continuing to ramp up in the U.S. Congress. In July, Co-chairs Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) launched the Medicare-for-All Caucus with 74 members, representing one-third of all Democrats in the House of Representatives. The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act (H.R. 676), has a record 123 co-sponsors. This represents nearly two-thirds of the 194 total Democratic House members.
In the Senate, the call for single-payer is getting louder too. The Medicare for All Act (S. 1804) was introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with 16 co-sponsors, which is one-third of Senate Democrats. Co-sponsors include potential 2020 candidates, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). However, as recently as 2016, Sen. Sanders was the only sponsor for his single-payer bill, highlighting the strength of the grassroots-led Medicare-for-All movement and its ability to bring new champions on board.
Recognizing the growing popularity of Medicare-for-All, and in their zeal to protect the status quo that enriches medical corporations, conservatives have been engaging in “Mediscare” tactics, or casting doubt about the cost or quality of care under Medicare-for-All. Opponents have returned to using rhetoric such as calling the policy “socialized medicine” and “government financed health care” in an attempt to steer voters away from supporting Medicare-for-All. Seema Verma, the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator, recently called Medicare-for-All “government-run socialized health care.” These attacks highlight that the Medicare-for-All movement has gained sufficient traction that opponents clearly are no longer comfortable simply ignoring it and now are trying to undermine the push for the policy by peddling untruths.
Even conservative voters are unconvinced by these misleading arguments about “socialized medicine” as they recognize that the federal and state governments already oversee payment of bills through Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare-for-All would simply improve and expand Medicare to everyone in America. Also, though health care would be paid for by the government, but health care delivery would continue to be provided by private doctors and hospitals. Consolidating government oversight of health care and disbursing funds via a single, national payment stream will improve health care access, accountability, and efficiency.
“Mediscare” tactics also obscure that two-thirds of current spending on healthcare is already financed by taxpayer dollars. This includes services such as Medicare and Medicaid as well as health insurance for government employees and tax subsidies for employers to provide health care. In contrast, private business funds only account for twenty percent of total health care spending. And, as we recently outlined, the total cost of health spending in the country will actually decrease under Medicare-for-All because of administrative cost savings, drug negotiation, and other policies to increase efficiencies while cutting costs.
Lastly, these scare tactics will continue to fail to slow the fantastic momentum behind Medicare-for-All because voters are not deterred by government participation in the provision of health care, but rather they want it. More than 50 percent of low-income Republicans—a significant increase of 19 percent from 2016—support the government playing a direct role in ensuring access to health care. Republicans who have struggled to afford their health care are particularly inclined to support Medicare-for-All.
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