January 23, 2020 | Updates

ICYMI: Medicare For All ‘Politically Toxic’

WASHINGTON – As Americans become increasingly aware of the higher taxes and harmful consequences of one-size-fits-all new government health insurance systems, more and more Democrats are expressing real concerns over the political consequences of campaigning on the unaffordable new system.  In a recent op-ed in The Washington Post, Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler of the center-left think tank Third Way write:

Medicare-for-all … [is] a politically toxic proposal that represents the only way Democrats could fumble away their health-care advantage … Democrats’ pledge to preserve and expand on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was a decisive factor in flipping the House from red to blue in 2018.  Sanders would do the opposite, ditching Obamacare in favor of his single-payer, government-run proposal.  This plan has steadily lost popularity over the past year and fares particularly poorly in the make-or-break “Blue Wall” states.

Recent analyses back this up.  According to an analysis from Emory University, Medicare for All “looks like a political loser,” CNN reports:

According to a new analysis of the 2018 midterm election results by Emory University Political Science professor Alan Abramowitz, Democrats who supported “Medicare for All” in the 60 closest House elections did significantly worse than those who did not.  In the districts Abramowitz examined – places President Donald Trump won in 2016 by less than 10 points that were either open seats or a Republican incumbent – just 42% of Democratic candidates who publicly supported Medicare for All won in 2018 while 72% of Democrats who did not support the legislation came out on top.

… “After controlling for all of the other variables affecting the outcomes of these contests, Democratic candidates who endorsed Medicare for All … the estimated coefficient of -4.6 indicates that support forMedicare for All cost Democratic candidates in these competitive districts almost five points of vote margin — a substantial effect in a close election,” concluded Abramowitz.

Which is very interesting – and consistent with polling on the subject.  In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll last month, 55% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they would prefer to vote for a candidate who will build on the existing law while 40% said they wanted a candidate who supported replacing the ACA with Medicare for All.  The bulk of polling on the issue affirms the Kaiser findings; Democrats, when given the choice, would rather make the current law better than rip it up and replace it with something new.

The Point: Warren (and Sanders) are all-in on a proposal that the majority of Democrats don’t want, and which exerted a drag on Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms.  That should worry them (and their supporters). 

The report, published by the University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball, finds that “the performance of 2018 Democratic House candidates shows that those who supported Medicare for All performed worse than those who did not,” and warns that “presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results.”  

A poll released late last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Political Report finds that nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of swing voters in the key states of Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin rate Medicare for All as a “bad idea.”  In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports that in Michigan, “supporters of a single-payer health care system are finding a tough audience.” 

Previous reporting has also made clear the political risks of embracing a one-size-fits-all system: 

  • The Washington Post reports that “Democrats in swing districts are increasingly worried that the outspoken embrace of Medicare-for-all by Bernie Sanders and other top Democratic presidential hopefuls could hurt their chances of keeping the House in 2020.”
  • The Hill reports that “[c]entrist Democrats who helped their party win back the House majority with victories in key swing districts last fall are sounding the alarm that the liberal push for ‘Medicare for all’ could haunt them as they try to defend their seats and keep control of the House.”
  • “[A] majority of those [Democratic Members] who flipped their seats from red to blue focused on strengthening the 2010 health care law and protecting coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions,” Roll Call reports, noting the significant “risks for any politician that proposes dramatic change and uncertainty in a system that is central to Americans’ well-being.”
  • “None of the people that were able to win in tough districts in 2018 ran on Medicare-for-all, and the reason is that they can’t,” Matt Bennett of the centrist Democratic group Third Way explains to CNN“People in those districts don’t support it.”
  • As one Democratic strategist put it to The New York Times: “Most of the freshmen who helped take back the House got elected on: ‘We’re going to protect your health insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition,’ not ‘We’re going to take this whole system and throw it out the window.’”
  • The Washington Post reports that by “veer[ing] left,” Democratic presidential hopefuls are “leaving behind [the party’s] successful midterm strategy.”
  • And The New York Times reports that some Democratic governors are “anxious” and “alarmed that their party’s presidential candidates are embracing policies they see as unrealistic and politically risky.  And they are especially concerned about proposals that would eliminate private health insurance … Noting that many voters were already uneasy about losing their coverage, [Michigan Governor Gretchen] Whitmer said, ‘I don’t think feeding into that is a good idea.’”



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