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How Many Americans Support Single Payer?

Long-time HCFA-WA supporter and recently retired RN Cris Currie, who spent the last 13 years of his career in home health serving mostly Medicare and Medicaid patients, breaks down the 2017 Pew Research Center poll's findings that 60% of Americans believe it's the federal government’s responsibility to ensure Americans have healthcare. 

Last January, one of the people testifying in favor of a single-payer bill at the Washington State Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee’s hearing stated that a Pew Research Center poll from June of 2017 found that 60% of Americans now favor a single payer healthcare system. That would be a most impressive finding…if only it were true.  

The report actually states that 60% of Americans now say that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure healthcare coverage for all Americans, and that 33% of those people favor single-payer, while 25% favor a mix of government and private insurance, with 2% having no opinion. On the flip side, a full 39% say that healthcare is not the government’s responsibility, even though most of those people still approved of Medicare and Medicaid.  

While the total percentage of people favoring single payer is far lower than 60%, it has nevertheless increased substantially over the last four years. Support for single payer among Democrats is now at 52%, with support being much greater among younger Democrats, and while support among Republicans is only at 12%, lower income, younger Republicans are more likely to support the government’s continued role in healthcare than higher income Republicans.

We activists for single payer need to be careful that in our zeal to promote what seems like the obvious solution, we don’t exaggerate or mischaracterize the facts. The fact that polling indicates that 60% of the public now believes that the government has a responsibility to ensure healthcare coverage for all Americans is great news, but it does not equate to the same support for single payer. However, only 5% of the respondents opposed all government involvement in healthcare, which means that over 90% of Americans want to see Medicare and Medicaid continued. That kind of an approval rating is still a major accomplishment for our government!  

So according to this research, the vast majority of Americans are at least open to the idea that government still has an important role to play in healthcare. All we have to do is convince them that its role should be expanded, given the reality that the 45 year old private sector experiment in “managed care” has failed miserably.  At this point, there is really no other option.

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