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Poll: ‘Medicare for All’ Support Craters When Voters Told It Eliminates Private Market

Senator Kamala Harris launches her presidential campaign at a rally in Oakland, Calif., January 27, 2019. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

When self-described supporters of a Medicare-for-all health-care system were told that the policy would eliminate the private insurance market entirely, more than half of them rescinded their support, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday.

Of the 50 percent of total respondents who said they supported a generic Medicare-for-all proposal, 51 percent rescinded their support when answering a subsequent question that included a definition of the policy as eliminating the private insurance market, with 22 percent retreating completely to “don’t support” while another 29 percent reverted to “don’t know.” Previous polls measured support for a generic “Medicare for All” proposal but did not define the policy.

The poll, which surveyed 1,991 voters from February 7-10, found that net support for a generic “Medicare for All” plan also fell 15 percentage points since January 19. The decrease was more significant among Republicans at 21 percentage points, but the policy’s popularity also suffered an 11 percent net decrease among Democrats.

The results suggest that much of the support for universal Medicare is dependent on a lack of understanding regarding what the plan, as it’s conceived by its more progressive advocates, actually entails. The idea has emerged as a litmus test among progressive presidential contenders but it has remained, until recently, a largely nebulous policy framework. Different advocates of the proposal have offered a range of plans that entail varying degrees of government intervention and tolerate to different degrees the continued survival of the private insurance market.

Senator Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) provided the public a more substantive answer to the question of whether the private market would be allowed to exist under her vision of Medicare-for-all, when she told CNN’s Jake Tapper in late January she would like to “eliminate” it. She backtracked the following day as one of her advisers explained to CNN that she was open to some continued role for the private market.

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