AP-GfK Poll: Support shaky for Sanders ‘Medicare for all’
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Emily Swanson
AP GfK, February 25, 2016
At first blush, many Americans like the idea of “Medicare for all,” the government-run health system that’s a rallying cry for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
But mention some of the trade-offs — from higher taxes to giving up employer coverage — and support starts to shrivel.
That’s the key insight from an Associated Press-GfK poll released Thursday. The survey also found that people’s initial impressions of Sanders’ single-payer plan are more favorable than their views of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
A slim plurality of 39 percent supports replacing the private health insurance system with a single government-run, taxpayer-funded plan that would cover medical, dental, vision and long-term care, with 33 percent opposed. Only 26 percent say they support Obama’s hard-won health care law.
Asked whether they would continue to support Sanders’ plan if their own taxes went up, under a third of initial supporters of the plan would keep backing it. About 4 out of 10 flipped to opposition.
About the same share of initial backers would ditch single-payer if it meant that people had to give up employer coverage. Twenty-eight percent would continue to support it.
Higher taxes and an end to employer coverage are both a given under the Sanders plan, which would replace private coverage with a taxpayer-funded program, while also offering more generous benefits such as no deductibles and no copayments, as well as coverage for long-term care.
“That’s pie in the sky,” said Patricia Combs, a retired junior-high math teacher from Springboro, Ohio. “It sounds really good, but I don’t think it’s attainable … people would complain about their taxes being raised.”
Elizabeth Medina of Chicago, an office manager not currently working, said she worries that quality would slip.
“Overall it sounds terrific,” she said. “Yeah! Let’s go for it! But Europe and Canada have their problems with the single-payer system … it’s subpar.”
The poll found that 51 percent of initial single-payer backers would switch to opposition if it took longer for new drugs and treatments to become available. Only 14 percent would continue to support the plan. Such an outcome could happen if drugmakers were required to prove that new medications are therapeutically superior to existing ones. The current standard is that new drugs be safe and effective.
Additionally, 47 percent of initial supporters would reconsider if “Medicare for all” meant longer wait times for non-emergency medical services. That could happen if budget-conscious administrators encouraged doctors and hospitals to be parsimonious in using high-tech imaging. Only 18 percent of poll respondents would continue to support the plan in that case.
Overall, the poll found that health care remains a top issue for Americans, with three-fourths calling it extremely crucial or very important.
HC15. Would you favor or oppose replacing the current private health insurance system in the United States with a single government-run and taxpayer-funded plan like Medicare for all Americans that would cover medical, dental, vision, and long-term care services?
39% Total support
18% Strongly support
21% Somewhat support
26% Neither support nor oppose
33% Total oppose
12% Somewhat oppose
22% Strongly oppose
2% Refused/Not answered
HC15a. Would you support or oppose replacing the health insurance system in the United States with a single government-run plan if it meant:
Your own taxes would increase
32% Neither support nor oppose
Some people needed to switch doctors
37% Neither support nor oppose
It took longer for new drugs and treatments to become available
34% Neither support nor oppose
Longer wait times for nonemergency medical services
35% Neither support nor oppose
People needed to give up other coverage like employer coverage
32% Neither support nor oppose
The new system would replace Medicare for seniors
35% Neither support nor oppose
By Don McCanne, M.D.
Most polls place support for a single payer Medicare-for-all national health program at about 60%, with some variation based on labels, framing, and polling technique. Yesterday’s Kaiser poll placed it at 50%. This new Associated Press GfK poll places it at about 40%, but it is unusual in that over one-fourth of those polled expressed no preference. Of those expressing a preference, 54% were supportive and 46% opposed. But there was something else that was also very unusual about this poll.
Yesterday’s Kaiser poll demonstrated that the views on single payer were malleable. When asked about negative features that allegedly are associated with single payer, support declined, whereas support increased when asked about positive features. In this AP-GfK poll they were asked only about allegedly negative features, and support declined. But what were these negative features?
* Your own taxes would increase – But no mention was made of the savings in premiums, out-of-pocket expenses and other taxes that would more than offset the new taxes, resulting in a net savings.
* Some people needed to switch doctors – But that is a characteristic of private plans with their narrow networks whereas single payer provides free choice of health care professionals.
* It took longer for new drugs and treatments to become available – There is no way that the pharmaceutical industry is going to walk away from a $3 trillion market.
* Longer wait times for nonemergency medical services – Responsible stewards would use capacity adjustment and queue management to prevent excessive queues, as has been done successfully in several other nations.
* People needed to give up other coverage like employer coverage – But they would be trading that for a superior program with more comprehensive coverage, reduced out-of-pocket costs and greater choices in health care.
* The new system would replace Medicare for seniors – Who would want to continue with the current Medicare program that pays for only about half of health care when you could have an improved Medicare with more generous benefits?
Why would the Associated Press conduct such a deceptive poll at a risk of impairing its credibility? When you read the AP release, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that it was designed to slam presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and his support of Medicare for all. They even included a gratuitous comment from an unemployed office manager to the effect that the single payer system is “subpar” like in “Europe and Canada” – an absolute falsehood.
Whatever the intentions of the Associated Press, we must make every effort to dispel the deceptions and disseminate the true facts about single payer Improved Medicare for All. The health of America is at stake.