News & Politics

Poll: Americans Like 'Medicare for All,' Until They Learn What It Costs

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during the CNN Democratic Presidential Primary Debate with Hillary Clinton at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Thursday, April 14, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

On Wednesday, the Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll showing broad support for government health care — until Americans are notified of the various costs involved. The “Medicare for All” plan espoused by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and many 2020 Democrats sounds good to Americans at first, but it would cost $33 trillion over the first ten years, and likely cause problems in health care.

When asked for their impressions about “Medicare for All,” a majority of Americans (56 percent) said they support it, while only 42 percent said they would oppose it, the Kaiser poll found, the Associated Press reported.

Americans liked the program even more when they heard about the pros. Support jumped to 71 percent when “Medicare for All” was sold as providing a right to health insurance. Another 67 percent supported the program when they heard it would eliminate health care premiums and reduce out-of-pocket costs.

However, if Americans were warned that government health care could lead to higher taxes, only 37 percent supported the program. If they were warned about delays in receiving care — similar to the horrific tragedies surrounding waiting lists for health care at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) in recent years — Americans soured on the program quickly, with support dropping to 26 percent.

“The issue that will really be fundamental would be the tax issue,” Robert Blendon, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who reviewed the poll, told the AP. He pointed out that state single-payer efforts in Vermont and Colorado failed because of concerns about the tax increases needed to put them in place.

This poll suggests Americans’s biggest concern is actually not the sticker price, but the decline in care that would result from a system based on government benevolence. If the government, rather than the market, makes the decisions about who receives care and who doesn’t, withholding care from elderly patients could be justified as a matter of public funds. While Democrats insist they do not support “death panels,” rationing is a possibility with any government program, and waiting lists are extremely likely.

Many veterans died while on waiting lists at VA hospitals, under a government-run health care system. With Medicare for All, this kind of tragedy could be repeated on a grander scale.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.