This topic comes your way via the always interesting Medpundit. Medpundit is a doc who doesn’t want a single payer system, and reading between the lines of her views sounds like she is in the "MSA’s for all" camp. (Even if she isn’t I’ve described the problems with that approach here as well as explaining why employment-based insurance is here to stay for a while). The poll results alluded to here are from an ABC News poll conducted October 9-13.
The most remarkable result is that when asked if they’d favor a "Medicare for all" system 62% said yes, versus only 32% saying no. There is quite a wrinkle in this because, as the article goes on to say:
This poll asks people what they’d prefer a "universal health insurance program, in which everyone is covered under a program like Medicare that’s run by the government and financed by taxpayers," or "the current system, in which most people get their health insurance from private employers, but some people have no insurance."
Previous polls have asked this differently; one last year asked if people would support or oppose "a national health plan, financed by taxpayers, in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan," and found 40 percent support. The wording in this ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll weighs the proposal against the current system, and adds the Medicare model to the description.
Opposing the present system makes sense for virtually everyone. I suspect that if you asked them in a poll 30% of Americans would rather be poked in the eye with a sharp stick than have the current "system". What’s fascinating to me is that 40% of the population wants single payer, and if you call it "Medicare for all" that number goes up.
Now, there is widespread fear of uninsurance. This article shows that "Fifty-nine percent of insured (Note: my emphasis) Americans are worried about being able to continue to afford health insurance in the future" Consequently those that have health benefits via employment are very keen to keep them. Furthermore Democrats still remember from 1993-4 how vigorously the stakeholders in the system will fight to keep the statue quo. However, I’m a little surprised that of the Democrats running for President only rank outsiders Dennis Kucinich and Carole Mosely Braun are pushing the single payer, (or "Medicare Part E for Everbody") option.
So while single payer is "politically unavailable"* to Americans, the public is waking up to the increasing level of real discontent with the current system. Given Bush’s problems abroad and with the economy, do not be surprised if this issue becomes bigger and bigger for the Democrats as we head to November 2004.
*The phrase is from Ian Morrison.