More Americans say government should ensure health care coverage
By Kristen Bialik
Pew Research Center, January 13, 2017
As the debate continues over repeal of the Affordable Care Act and what might replace it, a growing share of Americans believe that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.
Currently, 60% of Americans say the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans, compared with 38% who say this should not be the government’s responsibility. The share saying it is the government’s responsibility has increased from 51% last year and now stands at its highest point in nearly a decade.
More than eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (85%) say the federal government should be responsible for health care coverage, compared with just 32% of Republicans and Republican leaners.
While about three-quarters of those with family incomes of less than $30,000 per year (74%) say the government should ensure coverage, only about half (53%) of those with incomes of $75,000 or higher say the same.
The belief that the government has a responsibility to ensure health coverage has increased across many groups over the past year, but the rise has been particularly striking among lower- and middle-income Republicans.
Currently, 52% of Republicans with family incomes below $30,000 say the federal government has a responsibility to ensure health coverage for all, up from just 31% last year. There also has been a 20-percentage-point increase among Republicans with incomes of $30,000-$74,999 (34% now, 14% last year). But there has been no significant change among those with incomes of $75,000 or more (18% now, 16% then).
Overall, 43% of Democrats and Democratic leaners support a so-called single payer approach, but this approach is more popular among liberal Democrats (51%) than among conservative and moderate Democrats (38%).
Most of those on the other side of the issue – people who say the government does not have a responsibility to ensure health coverage – say on a subsequent question that the government should continue Medicare and Medicaid (32% of the overall public), while just 5% of the public says the government should have no role in health care.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Once again about 60 percent of Americans say that the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for everyone. There are a couple of observations in this particular poll worth considering.
As the health care reform process began, there was a decline in support of a government responsibility in health care coverage. That decline has reversed and is now back to 60 percent (see graph).
Last year, 31 percent of Republicans with family incomes below $30,000 supported a government responsibility for coverage and now that has increased to 52 percent. This suggests that the prospects for bipartisan support are greater, including Trump voters.
The poll also suggests that the term “single payer” has not gained as much traction, though a previous Kaiser Health Tracking Poll has demonstrated much stronger support for the “Medicare for all” framing.
Regardless, the ground is fertile to advance the cause of health care justice for all. Let’s do it.