March 10, 2020 | Updates

Medicare For All: An ‘Enormous Risk’ For Democrats

WASHINGTON – As the negative consequences of one-size-fits-all new government health insurance systems become clearer, Medicare for All “risks antagonizing [a] critical Democratic bloc by promising to end their healthcare plans.”  The Washington Examiner reports: 

… [P]olling among people with private coverage, particularly among those who get their coverage through work … show that most people with employer plans are happy with them – they also show that the public balks at the idea of gutting private insurance or the government becoming more involved in healthcare.  Those facts indicate that … the Democratic Party would be taking an enormous risk in campaigning on a platform that would end private plans.  Such a platform plank would endanger the votes of a bloc that is now critical to the party’s coalition, namely middle-class and professional, suburban voters who get coverage through their employers. 

And they’re right.  A Gallup poll finds that “[s]ome 71% of Americans rate their private coverage as ‘excellent’ or ‘good,’” CNN reports“Americans continue to prefer a healthcare system based on private insurance (54%) over a government-run healthcare system (42),” according to Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll, which finds that a government-controlled health insurance system “remains the minority view in the U.S.  This could create a challenge in a general election campaign for a Democratic presidential nominee advocating a ‘Medicare for All’ or other healthcare plan that would greatly expand the government’s role in the healthcare system.”

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

This helps explain why an increasing number of Democrats are sounding the alarm over a one-size-fits-all new government health insurance system.  In fact, “[m]ost Senate Democratic challengers have already disavowed ‘Medicare for all’ … saying instead that Congress should focus on improving the Affordable Care Act,” The New York Times reports

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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