FACT CHECK: Do The ‘Majority’ Of Americans Find Single-Payer Health Care ‘A Horrible Idea’?

Kush Desai | Fact Check Reporter

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that “the majority of the country” believes that “the single-payer system that the Democrats are proposing is a horrible idea” during a Wednesday press briefing.

“I can’t think of anything worse than having government be more involved in your health care instead of less involved,” she continued. Sanders was criticizing the “Medicare-For-All” single-payer health care bill that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders unveiled the same day.

Verdict: False

A review of numerous public opinion polls does not suggest “the majority” of Americans find single-payer health care a “horrible idea.” Most polls conversely indicate greater support than opposition to single-payer health care.

Fact Check:

Opinion polls have indicated fluctuating levels of public support for single-payer health care.

A Gallup poll released back in May 2016 estimated that a majority of Americans actually support single-payer. Nearly 60 percent of the poll’s respondents said they favor replacing Obamacare with a “federally funded health care program providing insurance for all Americans,” or single-payer. Only 37 percent opposed the idea, and five percent had no opinion.

The first public poll The Daily Caller News Foundation could identify from 2017 was an AP-NORC Center opinion poll conducted between Jan. 12 and Jan. 16. Thirty-eight percent of poll respondents favored “a single payer health care system” while 39 percent opposed. Single-payer favorability decreased to just 24 percent when the poll question was adjusted to make note that single-payer involves “large increases in government spending.”

A Rasmussen Reports poll released May 10 reported a plurality of respondents – 44 percent – favored single-payer health care while 40 percent opposed. Sixteen percent of respondents had no opinion.

A Pew Research Center poll released a month later on June 23 reported that only 33 percent of respondents supported a “single national government program,” or single-payer health care.

A 60 percent majority of the June Pew poll’s respondents, however, supported the broader notion that government is responsible for achieving universal health care for all Americans. A quarter of respondents preferred a “mix” of public and private health plans over single-payer to achieve universal health care.

A YouGov/Economist poll conducted between June 25 and June 27 asked respondents if they favor single-payer health care, making note that such a system would be “financed by taxes.” A 44 percent plurality of respondents favored taxpayer-funded single-payer health care. Less than a third of respondents opposed.

A poll released next month on July 5 by the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health care think tank, had asked respondents if they favor or oppose a “single government plan” for all Americans. A 53 percent majority of respondents favored single-payer while 43 percent opposed it.

(The Kaiser poll from June also revealed that support fluctuated based on how a single-payer plan is marketed. A stronger 57 percent majority of respondents, for instance, favored single-payer health care when asked about the specific Medicare-For-All plan introduced by Congressional Democrats.)

The most recent poll TheDCNF found was a Quinnipiac University poll released Aug. 3. The poll asked respondents if they approved of replacing the “current health care system” with a single-payer system in which “Medicare covers every American citizen.” The poll’s results estimated that a slight majority of 51 percent of Americans favor a single-payer system. Only 38 percent of respondents opposed it.

It is not clear, however, that a majority of Americans are in favor switching to a single-payer health care system. These polls, spread over more than a year, utilized different methods of gauging popular support for single-payer health care. A September 2016 Gallup poll reported that a 65 percent majority of respondents feel “satisfied” with the current health care system, casting some doubt on the notion that Americans yearn for radical single-payer reform.

Nevertheless, six out of seven polls TheDCNF examined indicated more support for single-payer over other health care policy alternatives. These polls moreover indicate a secular growth trend for single-payer support – all of the polls that TheDCNF examined that had been repeated in previous years indicated that year after year, popular support for single-payer has usually increased.

Sanders’ claim that the “majority” of Americans side with Trump in the belief that single-payer health care is a “horrible idea” is false. Polls suggest more Americans support the idea than oppose it.

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Kush Desai

Fact Check Reporter

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