The ground is slowly softening across the country for a different kind of health-insurance system. Signs are emerging everywhere, from well-known public figures to ordinary Americans voicing their anger at town halls to newspaper editorials like one just published in the Oneonta (New York) Daily Star arguing for a “single-payer universal health care system.”
We’re having a conversation in America now that we wouldn’t have had five years ago, says former Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who shepherded the Affordable Care Act through passage to its disastrous rollout in 2013. “People now say insurance companies shouldn’t ever again be allowed to discriminate against individuals with preexisting health conditions. There is some recognition that health care for all is a positive step forward and shouldn’t be just available depending on where you work or where you live.”
Town-hall meetings suggest the same. Lydia Tackett, an educator in her early 30s from Fargo, North Dakota, told attendees at a recent roundtable with North Dakota Senator John Hoeven that she had seen a “sea change” among her peers in their perceptions of health insurance. While young adults may have considered it unimportant in the past, she said, mandating coverage may now have more support than the GOP believes. Fifty-eight-year-old Cheryl Hofstetter Duffy made it clear at a Kansas town hall that she “would not support” GOP Senator Jerry Moran if he voted to repeal Obamacare. “Oh, it is that critical,” she said.
Something has changed.
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s June tracking poll found that a majority of Americans now support getting insurance from a single government plan, indicating a slow but steady increase in support since 1998, with 53 percent now favoring a single-payer plan while 43 percent are opposed. It was roughly the opposite from 1998 through 2004, while polling from 2008 to 2009 found that the public was more evenly split.
Still, the Kaiser poll revealed that the public’s opinions “are quite malleable,” meaning people can easily be persuaded not only by the usual arguments from doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and other sellers who fear a national health plan would mean they’d make less money. They might also be influenced by ideologically driven politicians who speak on behalf of those interests. “If we don’t get this done and we end up with Democratic majorities in ’18, we’ll have single-payer. That’s what we’ll be dealing with,” South Dakota Senator John Thune told Politico.