Poll: What do Americans think of the single-payer system?


June 30, 2016

A new Gallup poll reveals that Americans support a single-payer health care system over the existing system under the Affordable Care Act. Among those polled, 58 percent prefer a single-payer system like the one advocated by presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, 51 percent support getting rid of the ACA and replacing it with something new, and 48 percent believe that the ACA should remain unchanged. Not surprisingly, those in favor of scrapping the current health care law are primarily Republicans.

Since the outset of the Affordable Care Act, most Republicans have been outspoken in their support of repealing the law. With a presidential election coming up, the candidates for office have proposed their own changes – or lack thereof – to the ACA. Hillary Clinton, the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, supports keeping the law in place and making modifications over time. Likely Republican nominee Donald Trump has proposed getting rid of the ACA altogether and replacing it with a new health care plan.

As the new Gallup poll shows, Americans are essentially divided equally on the issue of national health care. While most Republicans automatically reject federally-funded programs, the poll shows that 41 percent of Republicans and right-leaning independents support a single-payer system. This could be because conservatives have made it clear that anything is better than the ACA, even a system that goes against most Republicans’ core beliefs about government.

Single-payer systems have worked in other developed countries, but nationalized health care has long been a hotly debated topic in the U.S. among those on both sides of the congressional aisle. Conservatives are hesitant at best about handing the government the reins on most anything, and liberals typically support more government control over systems that need more structure, like health care.

Ezra Klein with The Washington Post argues that the approach to a single-payer system has focused on the wrong problems with the American health care system as a whole. Rather than focusing on medical providers and pharmaceutical companies – the true at-fault players with skyrocketing health care cost, he says – liberals have forced the blame onto insurers, who actually have little negotiation power when it comes to setting prices and maintaining health care costs.

Clinton supports keeping the existing law intact and working on ways to improve it over time, a popular opinion held by mainstream Democrats. However, when pressed on whether they would prefer a single-payer system over the existing ACA, 64 percent of those who favor the existing law chose replacing it with a federally-funded system instead according to the Gallup poll.

It’s clear that regardless of political affiliation, most Americans want change when it comes to health care. The issue seems to be what kind of change the country would be willing to accept. As we head into an election this fall, the candidates’ answer to this question will play a large role in the results.