Even most Republicans support a public health care option


A new poll finds 68% overall support for the choice of a government-run health insurance program.

A new poll found widespread support for a key part of President Joe Biden's health care plan — even among Republican voters.

A Morning Consult/Politico poll, released on Wednesday, found 68% of American voters back a public health insurance option — including 56% of Republicans. This overall total represented a five-point increase in support since February 2020.

The idea of a public option is not a new concept. Much like Medicare, the federal government would create and operate a health insurance program that citizens could opt to buy into. Private insurers would still be able to compete and consumers would be able to choose which plan they liked better.

Democrats tried to do this in 2009, when President Barack Obama proposed the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare.

Though a public option was included in the House version of the bill, independent then-Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut threatened to filibuster, claiming it would cause "trouble for taxpayers, for the premium payers and for the national debt."

In reality, the Congressional Budget Office predicted the House plan would significantly reduce the federal budget deficit — but the provision was omitted from the final version.

Last year, Biden ran on a promise to try again.

"If your insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another, better choice. Whether you’re covered through your employer, buying your insurance on your own, or going without coverage altogether, Biden will give you the choice to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare," he wrote in his health care plan. "As in Medicare, the Biden public option will reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other health care providers."

A November 2020 analysis by the Center for American Progress found that a proposal like Biden's would "lower costs, save American families money, and allow private insurance plans to continue to compete."

But, as in 2009, Republicans and the insurance industry are working together to oppose the idea.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, GOP super PACs aligned with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ran multiple ads in the lead up to the 2020 elections attacking Democratic candidates for supporting a public option — while an industry coalition ran its own ads attacking the idea.

The ads cited an industry-funded study attacking the public option as a "scheme" to institute "government-run" health care and shut down hospitals.

Despite the GOP attack ads, Democrats gained three Senate seats and a narrow majority in the chamber — as Biden won nationally by more than 7 million votes.

Wednesday's poll numbers would suggest that the industry ads also failed to sway voters on the issue.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.