President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night showed he understands where the country is satisfied and areas for improvement the Republican Party must address. He highlighted the military, economic achievements, and the wall on the southern border, all top issues for voters. He also spoke about healthcare reform and the threat to millions of Americans who are happy with their current insurance plans should one of the socialized medicine plans be forced through. Last week, Market Research Foundation covered a poll ranking voter satisfaction across a range of issues, and healthcare stands out as a glaring blind spot for Republicans. Healthcare issues repeatedly rank high on America’s unsatisfied list, yet Democrats have positioned themselves as the problem-solvers while the GOP addresses healthcare infrequently. Republicans need to follow the president’s lead and continue to speak out about healthcare and address voter concerns.
Over the past 20 years, views on the government’s role in healthcare have shifted back and forth. According to Gallup, in 2000, 59% of Americans said it was the government’s job to provide healthcare, and 38% said it was not. In 2008 as Obama stepped into the spotlight, favorability for government-run healthcare dropped, 54% to 41%. By 2010, with Obamacare being proposed and the rise of the Tea Party, favorability for government-run healthcare had dropped to less than half, 47% to 50%. By the 2016 election, favor for government-run healthcare rose again, 52% to 45%. At the close of 2019, public support for government-run healthcare was back at 54% to 45%, on par with the numbers in 2008 with slightly more Americans in 2019 saying they do not think government should provide healthcare.
Americans views on government-run healthcare also vary widely based on the proposal, and whether or not they will be forced to move onto new plans.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, while most Americans support the government ‘doing more’ to provide help provide health insurance, only 53% of Americans support Medicare for All, and only 13% of Republicans and 26% of Independents strongly favor this plan.
Terminology significantly impacts public opinion of government-run healthcare. As shown below, negative views are highest when the term ‘socialized medicine’ is used, although positive perception is still higher than negative perception.
Kaiser also found that the primary reason those who oppose government-run healthcare oppose it is simply that they do not want government involved as shown below.
This is significant. It highlights the fact that among those who oppose government-run healthcare, the primary issue is that it is government-run, as opposed to cost concerns or worries about choice restrictions. It is also worth noting that among Americans who support government-run healthcare, it is not necessarily because they trust government to run it, or mistrust the market to provide it. The chief reason for support is that they want all Americans covered, a goal that does not rely on handing healthcare over to the federal government.
According to Pew, even among Americans who think it is government’s job to provide healthcare, support for various solutions varies widely. While 27% of those who support government-run healthcare support a single payer program, 24% say universal health care should be provided through private insurance and government programs. Even among Democrats and Leaners who believe it is government’s job to provide healthcare, 44% support a national insurance system and 34% want a mix of private insurance and government programs.
Combine this concern over government-run healthcare with the fact that polling shows a majority of Americans feel dissatisfaction with government in general (57%) and the size of government (62%) and we can see that healthcare is an issue the GOP should absolutely be focusing on more.