One of the strangest aspects of the current debate over a Medicare-for-All, universal health care system is the mainstream media’s sudden focus on whether a candidate supports a universal system that would do away with private health insurance, or not. It’s question that has divided the Democratic field, which is one reason that it’s a become a standard question in candidate interviews, debates, and in recent polling— which has demonstrated that support for a single-payer universal health care system declines when people are told it might mean that they would lose their private health insurance.
The very question is odd because it essentially asks people if they support paying for something they no longer need.
But that’s not how this particular poll question is being asked— and that points to a pretty clear bias on the part of those who commission these polls. Pollsters know that the answers they receive from the people they survey are highly dependent on how a question is framed. And on this particular issue, pollsters have consistently asked the question: “Would you still support a Medicare-for-All system if it meant you would lose your private health insurance?”
No one likes the thought of losing something, particularly something that might currently be paying for their life-saving medical care. And most Americans in the private insurance market still receive insurance through their employers, who in most cases are funding the bulk of their premium. That means many Americans with private coverage feel it’s fairly affordable since they may only be paying 20 or 25-percent of their premium and they probably have a modest deductible and have a decent choice of doctors. So, if a pollster calls and asks what they would think if the government took their private insurance plan away from them, some will naturally be skeptical of the idea, particularly if, like many Americans, they don’t know much about the benefits of Medicare-for-All.
People may not realize that the Medicare-for-All plans currently proposed by Democratic presidential candidates would actually improve on the existing and very popular Medicare system, which covers Americans at age 65. Right now, Medicare is a two-tiered system, which provides a basic set of medical benefits for everyone, while leaving some gaps which many Medicare beneficiaries fill with supplemental insurance.
Supplemental insurance wouldn’t be necessary under the kind of Medicare-for-All plan proposed by candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, since the system would allow all Americans to see the doctor or dentist of their choice, with no deductibles, co-pays, or insurance premiums. Americans would pay more in taxes, but the vast majority of individuals and small businesses would save a tremendous amount of money overall. Under such a system, there’s simply no reason to have private insurance. It’s why no one buys police insurance coverage. The police are paid for through our taxes and they’re available when you need them.
Unfortunately, the mainstream media, which is owned by large corporate conglomerates and benefits mightily from the advertising dollars of the private insurance industry, appears far more interested in exploiting the public’s lack of knowledge about Medicare-for-All, using irrelevant distraction to prevent the public from learning the benefits of a single-payer system.
The advantage of a system that covers virtually everything and cuts out private insurance is that it directs far more money to actual health care. As it is today, a significant percentage of the people working in healthcare (who we pay for through the highest health care costs in the world) spend their days trying to negotiate the Byzantine world of insurance company billing. That adds an estimated 12-20 percent to the cost of healthcare in the U.S. Now add a 15-20 percent profit margin to pay the salaries of the insurance CEOs and you get as much as a third of every health care dollar we spend wasted on something other than actual health care.
So why should eliminating a massively expensive and wasteful segment of our “health care” sector concern anyone? In most cases, they simply don’t understand the question. And, sadly, too much of our mainstream media seems intent on keeping it that way.