Medicare-for-All at the Center of Health Care Discussion in the 2018 Election

With fewer than 100 days left until the mid-term elections on November 6th, candidates are trying to engage voters on major issues including health care, immigration, and the economy. Republican proposals to roll back or alter the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid, and Medicare have pushed Democratic candidates to campaign on health care, with many running on single-payer Medicare-for-All.

Voters are demanding to hear legislators’ visions of health care reform. A majority of Americans view health care as the top priority for Congress, at a rate nearly double the results of the next two issues: economy and jobs. And, they see health care as the most important issue in the 2018 mid-term elections.

Among health care issues, a recent poll found that protecting people with pre-existing conditions and passing Medicare-for-All were the top priorities. These findings are closely related because Medicare-for-All represents the best approach for achieving guaranteed access to health care and ensuring patient protections.

Given the importance of health care in the mid-term elections and the fact that support for the ACA is at a record high, Republicans face an uphill battle with voters due to their partisan attacks on health care, including trying to repeal the ACA and get rid of protections for pre-existing conditions. Republicans also recently promulgated rules aimed at diverting consumers into short-term “junk” plans that offer limited coverage and exclude pre-existing conditions. On the issue of cost, conservatives’ reform proposals largely involve minor tweaks to the law in response to rising premiums that are a direct result of their efforts to undermine the ACA.

In contrast, many Democrats have united around the concept of affordable, and more expansive access to health care in response to the high costs of care and prescription drugs. Their commitment to offering comprehensive health care legislation has led voters to trust Democrats more than Republicans on the issue. Meanwhile, a recent survey found that voters are less likely to re-elect incumbents who voted to repeal the ACA and 6 in 10 Americans reported viewing problems associated with the ACA as the responsibility of Republicans in office.

As the popularity of Medicare-for-All continues to grow across the political spectrum, the question has gone from whether to how to guarantee access to health care for everyone in America. This represents a dramatic shift in the health care debate, even from the 2016 election.

Further evidence of the extent to which Medicare-for-All has continued to gain traction across the country is that a record number, more than 100 Congressional candidates (including incumbents), are making single-payer Medicare-for-All part of their platforms. Notable primary wins include newcomers Alexandria Cortez-Ocasio (NY-14) and Kara Eastman (NE-2) where both candidates took uncompromising stands on health care, a political strategy made possible by the growing demand for Medicare-for-All.

Because the high costs of health care affect everyone regardless of their party affiliation, Medicare-for-All appeals to voters of all stripes. This means that single-payer Medicare-for-All as both a policy and a campaign platform can find support in blue, purple, and red districts alike. Among swing-district Democrats who have already won their primary contests, 70 percent support guaranteed universal coverage and Medicare-for-All. And two-thirds of Democrats running in swing districts include Medicare-for-All in their campaign materials.

The surge in support for Medicare-for-All is likely to continue to grow beyond the 2018 elections to the 2020 Presidential race. Presidential hopefuls, including Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), have all endorsed single-payer Medicare-for-All.

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