Democrats Split Over Best Path to Universal Health Care

(CN) – Democrats and Republicans have long been sharply divided about the government’s role in health care, but new survey data shows an intraparty schism among Democrats over how to go about ensuring coverage for all Americans.

The HealthCare.gov website is photographed in Washington on Oct. 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

In a survey of 1,500 adults between July 10 and 15, the Pew Research Center found that 53% of all respondents said ensuring health care coverage for everyone is the government’s responsibility. But the overall number masks stark partisan contrasts on the issue.

A 64% majority of Republicans felt that the government should only provide Medicare and Medicaid coverage, and nothing further, while 12% of Republican respondents thought that the government should not be involved in health care at all.

Inversely, 44% of Democratic respondents said the federal government should establish a nationalized health care program, and 34% felt there should be a mix of government and private health care programs beyond just Medicare and Medicaid.

Republican respondents demonstrated a consensus around preserving the current institutional infrastructure, centered around private health insurance along with government programs for eligible individuals but Democrats were divided on how large the government’s role should be in the health care industry.

The intraparty contrasts were drawn around age and broader ideological stances. Democratic respondents under 50 were more likely to support a nationalized health care program, at 49% for those between 18 and 29 years old and 53% for those 30 to 49 years old.

There was an even split among Democratic respondents between 50 and 64 years old – 38% said they support a single government program and another 38% favored a mix of government and private programs.

Democrats over 65 were more likely to support a mixed system (44%) compared to a nationalized program (32%).

Liberal Democrats were the most likely to support nationalized health care at 57%, while a 42% plurality of moderate Democrats preferred a mix of private and government programs.

Support for more government intervention in health care has fallen since September 2018, particularly among Republicans. Their overall support for affirming governmental responsibility for health care fell from 29% to 20%. Democrats’ support for government health care programs fell just 4% since last year to 81%.

The disagreements among Democrats revealed in the survey data parallels with the policy differences of various Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential election cycle.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has reaffirmed his commitment to nationalized health care, which he also supported during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary as well. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also made clear during the first Democratic debate on June 26 that private insurance would end under her health care proposal.

Sanders’ and Warren’s commitments to Medicare for All align them with the survey respondents who support a single government program

In contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden has argued that Medicare for All would effectively end the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare, for his former running mate Barack Obama – and has sought to build on the law via tax credits to lower out-of-pocket expenses.

Biden’s proposal is representative of Democrat voters who said private insurance companies should coincide with government health care programs aimed at lowering costs.

While partisan differences on health care are indicative of the stark ideological contrasts between the two parties as the 2020 election comes into focus, the split between two factions of Democrats reveals a lack of consensus over how to implement an expanded the government’s role in health care, a divide that will be apparent on the primary debate stage.

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