Friday, February 26, 2016

qotd: AP-GfK poll on single payer spreads falsehoods

February 25, 2016
AP-GfK Poll: Support shaky for Sanders 'Medicare for all'
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Emily Swanson

At first blush, many Americans like the idea of "Medicare for all," the
government-run health system that's a rallying cry for Democratic
presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

But mention some of the trade-offs — from higher taxes to giving up
employer coverage — and support starts to shrivel.

That's the key insight from an Associated Press-GfK poll released
Thursday. The survey also found that people's initial impressions of
Sanders' single-payer plan are more favorable than their views of
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

A slim plurality of 39 percent supports replacing the private health
insurance system with a single government-run, taxpayer-funded plan that
would cover medical, dental, vision and long-term care, with 33 percent
opposed. Only 26 percent say they support Obama's hard-won health care law.

Asked whether they would continue to support Sanders' plan if their own
taxes went up, under a third of initial supporters of the plan would
keep backing it. About 4 out of 10 flipped to opposition.

About the same share of initial backers would ditch single-payer if it
meant that people had to give up employer coverage. Twenty-eight percent
would continue to support it.

Higher taxes and an end to employer coverage are both a given under the
Sanders plan, which would replace private coverage with a
taxpayer-funded program, while also offering more generous benefits such
as no deductibles and no copayments, as well as coverage for long-term care.

"That's pie in the sky," said Patricia Combs, a retired junior-high math
teacher from Springboro, Ohio. "It sounds really good, but I don't think
it's attainable … people would complain about their taxes being raised."

Elizabeth Medina of Chicago, an office manager not currently working,
said she worries that quality would slip.

"Overall it sounds terrific," she said. "Yeah! Let's go for it! But
Europe and Canada have their problems with the single-payer system …
it's subpar."

The poll found that 51 percent of initial single-payer backers would
switch to opposition if it took longer for new drugs and treatments to
become available. Only 14 percent would continue to support the plan.
Such an outcome could happen if drugmakers were required to prove that
new medications are therapeutically superior to existing ones. The
current standard is that new drugs be safe and effective.

Additionally, 47 percent of initial supporters would reconsider if
"Medicare for all" meant longer wait times for non-emergency medical
services. That could happen if budget-conscious administrators
encouraged doctors and hospitals to be parsimonious in using high-tech
imaging. Only 18 percent of poll respondents would continue to support
the plan in that case.

Overall, the poll found that health care remains a top issue for
Americans, with three-fourths calling it extremely crucial or very


HC15. Would you favor or oppose replacing the current private health
insurance system in the United States with a single government-run and
taxpayer-funded plan like Medicare for all Americans that would cover
medical, dental, vision, and long-term care services?

39% Total support
18% Strongly support
21% Somewhat support

26% Neither support nor oppose

33% Total oppose
12% Somewhat oppose
22% Strongly oppose

2% Refused/Not answered

HC15a. Would you support or oppose replacing the health insurance system
in the United States with a single government-run plan if it meant:

Your own taxes would increase
28% Support
32% Neither support nor oppose
29% Oppose

Some people needed to switch doctors
33% Support
37% Neither support nor oppose
29% Oppose

It took longer for new drugs and treatments to become available
14% Support
34% Neither support nor oppose
51% Oppose

Longer wait times for nonemergency medical services
18% Support
35% Neither support nor oppose
47% Oppose

People needed to give up other coverage like employer coverage
28% Support
32% Neither support nor oppose
39% Oppose

The new system would replace Medicare for seniors
37% Support
35% Neither support nor oppose
26% Oppose



Comment by Don McCanne

Most polls place support for a single payer Medicare-for-all national
health program at about 60%, with some variation based on labels,
framing, and polling technique. Yesterday's Kaiser poll placed it at
50%. This new Associated Press GfK poll places it at about 40%, but it
is unusual in that over one-fourth of those polled expressed no
preference. Of those expressing a preference, 54% were supportive and
46% opposed. But there was something else that was also very unusual
about this poll.

Yesterday's Kaiser poll demonstrated that the views on single payer were
malleable. When asked about negative features that allegedly are
associated with single payer, support declined, whereas support
increased when asked about positive features. In this AP-GfK poll they
were asked only about allegedly negative features, and support declined.
But what were these negative features?

* /Your own taxes would increase/ - But no mention was made of the
savings in premiums, out-of-pocket expenses and other taxes that would
more than offset the new taxes, resulting in a net savings.

* /Some people needed to switch doctors/ - But that is a characteristic
of private plans with their narrow networks whereas single payer
provides free choice of health care professionals.

* /It took longer for new drugs and treatments to become available/ -
There is no way that the pharmaceutical industry is going to walk away
from a $3 trillion market.

* /Longer wait times for nonemergency medical services/ - Responsible
stewards would use capacity adjustment and queue management to prevent
excessive queues, as has been done successfully in several other nations.

* /People needed to give up other coverage like employer coverage/ - But
they would be trading that for a superior program with more
comprehensive coverage, reduced out-of-pocket costs and greater choices
in health care.

* /The new system would replace Medicare for seniors/ - Who would want
to continue with the current Medicare program that pays for only about
half of health care when you could have an *improved* Medicare with more
generous benefits?

Why would the Associated Press conduct such a deceptive poll at a risk
of impairing its credibility? When you read the AP release, you can't
help but come to the conclusion that it was designed to slam
presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and his support of Medicare
for all. They even included a gratuitous comment from an unemployed
office manager to the effect that the single payer system is "subpar"
like in "Europe and Canada" - an absolute falsehood.

Whatever the intentions of the Associated Press, we must make every
effort to dispel the deceptions and disseminate the true facts about
single payer Improved Medicare for All. The health of America is at stake.

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