More than 4 in 5 Democrats want Congress to enact a taxpayer-funded, national health care plan such as Medicare for All, according to a new Harvard/POLITICO poll gauging the public’s health and education priorities for 2019.
Some 42 percent of Democratic respondents to the poll supported repealing and replacing Obamacare — mostly in the interest of building on the health law’s coverage gains and creating a new system so that more Americans have health insurance.
Story Continued Below
While support for a national, taxpayer-funded plan is concentrated on the Democratic side, 60 percent of Republican respondents backed allowing Americans under 65 to buy into Medicare (71 percent of respondents overall supported the idea, and 83 percent of Democrats).
“What Republicans are saying is, ‘Sure, I think we should have another option,’” said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who helped design the poll with POLITICO. “In the mind of the person answering it, they’re hearing choice. And that’s not Medicare for All, which everybody in America has the same card.”
Meanwhile, 65 percent of respondents (70 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of Republicans) support a public health insurance option that would compete with private payers. The proposal divided Democrats during the bitter debate leading to passage of the 2010 health care law.
The poll showed most people weren’t aware of a Medicare buy-in or public option but were broadly supportive of the ideas when informed about them.
The poll identified efforts to curb prescription drug prices as an area of potential bipartisan compromise this year. Addressing the cost of medicines ranked as respondents’ top priority for the new Congress, with 92 percent saying doing so is extremely important (94 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans).
The two parties were also in overwhelming agreement that lawmakers should make sure insurance companies provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions — a message that Democrats capitalized on in the midterm elections. And the vast majority of Democrats (93 percent) and Republicans (78 percent) also don’t want Congress to cut Medicare benefits.
“Some of the caucuses in the Republican House have made cutting back on Medicare their budgetary strategy for deficits,” Blendon said. “An important finding here is that in a world where Medicare was not really a big issue in this election, how important Republicans feel about not cutting benefits in Medicare.”
The poll found the public is largely unaware there’s no longer a penalty for not obtaining health insurance. Only 36 percent of respondents were aware that congressional Republicans used their tax bill to gut the ACA’s individual mandate.
The effect of that change on Obamacare enrollment remains unclear. Sign-ups on the federal health exchange saw a modest 3.4 percent dip this year. But Blendon said it’s too soon to tell what the elimination of the penalty does to enrollment, since most consumers don’t know it’s gone.
On education policy, the poll found bipartisan majorities strongly supporting efforts to reduce student debt and increase spending on K-12 public education.
Republicans ranked making it easier for students to attend charter or private schools a higher priority than Democrats, who were more supportive of increased spending on community college.
The poll surveyed 1,013 adults between Dec. 11-16. The margin of error is between plus or minus 3.7 and 5.2 percentage points.