- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2019

More than half of the public supports a Bernie Sanders-style plan that replaces private coverage with a sweeping, “Medicare for all” style program that imposes a nationwide plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

However, support for a government-run, single-payer plan swings wildly off the 56-percent mark when potential benefits and drawbacks are posed.

The argument that single-payer would make health coverage a right for all boosts support to 71 percent versus 27 percent opposition. Yet the notion that single-payer could force people to wait longer for medical tests or procedures caused those percentages to essentially flip, the Kaiser poll found.

Pollsters said roughly three in four Americans support a national health plan that would cover everyone but allow people to keep the coverage they have and like. A similar share favors reform plans that would let Americans buy into Medicare at age 50 or purchase Medicaid coverage if they don’t have an employer plan.

The range of options and opinions around them reflects Democrats’ tap-the-ice approach to pushing a broad expansion of taxpayer-funded insurance to fill gaps left by Obamacare and fight President Trump’s attempts to tweaks the law, which liberals often dub “sabotage.”

A Gallup survey on Wednesday said the uninsured rate reached 13.7 percent in the last quarter of 2018.

It’s the highest level since the first quarter of 2014 — as Obamacare launched — though still far below the high point of 18 percent in late 2013, or right before President Barack Obama extended new options and mandated Americans to get covered.

Still, 13.7 percent is far higher than the low point of 10.9 percent reached in 2016, after many states took advantage of Obamacare’s funding. The percentage increase translates to roughly 7 million more persons becoming uninsured over the last two years.

The Gallup index is one of several measures of the uninsured. Federal officials keep an official tally.

Gallup cited a series of reasons for the increase, from rising premiums due to flaws in the 2010 law to Mr. Trump’s push to slash marketing and enrollment assistance and the uncertainty around its survival in recent years, as GOP mulled repeal plans.

Democrats who retook the House have scheduled hearings on how to expand coverage, while taking steps to shore up Obamacare.

Democrats were most likely to cite the defense of Obamacare’s protections for preexisting conditions (31 percent) as their top priority, while 20 percent each say single-payer or slashing prescription-drug costs should come first, Kaiser found.

Republicans were still most likely to cite repealing and replacing Obamacare, at 27 percent, as their top priority, with prescription drug prices coming in second at 20 percent.

Mr. Trump is unlikely to fulfill his dream of replacing his predecessor’s law during his first term, since Democrats now control one side of Congress.

However, a lawsuit that threatens to unravel the Affordable Care Act could force Congress to revisit the issue, if a ruling out of Texas is upheld by the higher courts.

Kaiser said only less than half of the public, or 44 percent, were aware that U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled Obamacare to be invalid because of Congress’ decision to gut its “individual mandate” penalty for shirking insurance.

When told about the ruling, more Americans disapproved (51 percent) than approved (41 percent), though there was a partisan split that mirrors the long-standing divide over the Democrats’ 2010 law.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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