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5/19/16

US Healthcare More Americans Want Socialist Healthcare Than You Think

The passage of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, shows what it takes to create a new government benefit in 21st-century America. The debate over the bill during Obama's first term was a nationwide shoutfest that turned violent at times; since Obamacare became law in 2010, the Republican-controlled House has continuously voted to defund it, conservatives have challenged it in multiple court battles (at least one of which is still being fought), many GOP-run states have stalled the expansion of Medicaid that was supposed to come with the law, and every Republican candidate for president has promised to make repealing Obamacare a priority.

So it's no surprise that Republicans really, really hate the ACA, and most polls over the years have shown that more Americans disapprove of Obamacare than approve of it. But according to a new survey from Gallup, what they want to replace it with is the sort of socialist-style system Bernie Sanders and others have been backing for years.

In Gallup's poll, Democrat-leaning voters mostly supported Obamacare, but 72 percent of all respondents who approve of it said they'd like to replace it with a "federally funded healthcare program providing insurance for all Americans," or what's commonly known as a "single-payer" system. And even 41 percent of Republican-leaning respondents, who mostly dislike the ACA, told Gallup they'd rather have single-payer than Obamacare—a position that, as far as I can figure out, not a single Republican officeholder has ever endorsed. But if socialized medicine is actually so popular, why can't we have it? In other words, why has the healthcare debate been so out of touch with what people say they want?

Health insurance is a fairly complicated topic, and not top-of-mind for most voters during a campaign cycle that has focused on the economy and immigration. According to recent Pew polls, Republicans generally don't think the government should get involved in healthcare. But there's a not-insignificant amount of evidence that when you strip out the names of parties and candidates, support for government-run insurance cuts across partisan lines.

The new Gallup poll, notably, didn't remind participants that federal health insurance was opposed by the right; one 2015 Huffington Post/YouGov poll found that if you told people single-payer was Donald Trump's idea a lot more Republicans were suddenly onboard (and a lot more Democrats suddenly opposed universal healthcare).

Opposition to Obamacare is often synonymous with the right-wing effort to block the expansion of the federal government into citizens' lives. On the angrier corners of the fringe, this means Sarah Palin–esque denouncements of rationing care and "death panels," but more respectable right-wingers will tell you that the problem is the government shouldn't be able to force you to buy something you don't want to. An anti-ACA lawyer even admitted, during the famous 2012 Supreme Court battle over the law, that a single-payer program would be more constitutional than the current method of requiring people to become private health insurance customers or face tax penalties.

Less talked about is the significant number of people who thought that Obamacare didn't go far enough. Sanders has been the most prominent supporter of a government-run system since he introduced an obviously doomed amendment to adopt single-payer during the original ACA debate in the Senate. Beyond single-payer, though, there's something called the "public option," a scheme that would give people the choice of buying government-provided insurance or going to the private market.

Read more: More Americans Want Socialist Healthcare Than You Think | VICE | United States

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