The Corner

Health Care

Adults Like ‘Medicare for All,’ as Long as They Know Nothing about It

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduces the “Medicare for All Act of 2017” on Capitol Hill, September 13, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Democrats are really whistling past the graveyard in their belief that Medicare for All is a political winner and will end up being a key component of their argument to replace President Trump.

The latest survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation asked adults about Medicare for All and found 51 percent support it, 46 percent oppose it. At first glance, that looks like a just-big-enough majority to be a winner in November 2020, although it’s worth noting this sample is of adults, not registered voters or likely voters.

But the same survey also revealed that a majority of Americans are still seriously misinformed about how Medicare for All would work. 55 percent of respondents believed that people who get insurance through their jobs would keep those plans, and the same percentage believed that people who bought their own insurance would keep those plans. A separate question found that 40 percent said they thought private insurance would still be the primary way that Americans would get coverage under Medicare for All. 54 percent said that individuals and employers would continue to pay health insurance premiums.

Under the bill introduced by Bernie Sanders, and co-sponsored by Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, it is illegal for “a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this act” or “an employer to provide benefits for an employee, former employee, or the dependents of an employee or former employee that duplicate the benefits provided under this act.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation pollster asked respondents if they would favor or oppose Medicare for All if they heard that it would eliminate private health insurance companies, and 58 percent said they would oppose it. Separately, 60 percent said they would oppose it if it would require Americans to pay more in taxes (hint, a program that increases federal spending by $34 trillion over ten years would indeed require higher taxes), and 70 percent said they would oppose it if they heard it would lead to delays in patients getting some medical tests and treatments. (If everyone in America who currently cannot afford insurance or treatment enters the existing health care system at once, delays in tests and treatment are inevitable.)

What the survey shows is that a slim majority of Americans like the words “Medicare,” “for,” and “all” in that order, and have some vague idea that it means the parts of the health care system that they like will stay in place and that the parts they don’t like will go away. Not only have they not thought about the trade-offs involved, they do not understand the basics of how it would work.

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