The problem of healthcare in the United States is enormously complex. At this moment, Medicare, which primarily provides insurance for Americans above the age of 65, Medicaid, which covers insurance for certain Americans with limited incomes, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides healthcare to military veterans, are the key federal programs that altogether provide a substantial, but limited, number of Americans with health insurance. Americans not covered by these programs cover their health insurance costs either out of their own pocket or through their employers. Some even live their lives without any insurance at all.
At $722 billion, Medicare covers nearly 15% of the $4.8 trillion federal budget set out by the Trump Administration in early February this year for FY 2021. The program is technically currently underfunded as the Medicare Tax paid by all American employees does not cover the extent of the costs of the program. Medicaid, at $448 billion, covers about 9.3% of the federal budget. After accounting for revenue, the next fiscal budget will run a $966 billion deficit in the next fiscal year which will be added to the $23+ trillion national debt.
Given these staggering figures and, at the same time, the extensive burden of healthcare costs for many Americans, government-funded healthcare forms one of the most fundamental, contentious issues at the heart of American politics. It will likely be the key issue in the upcoming Presidential Election. With this in mind, Redfield & Wilton Strategies sought to get a sense of where Americans stand. In particular, we wanted to know what they thought about the proposed policy, popularized by Bernie Sanders, of extending Medicare coverage to the entire US population, also known as “Medicare for All.”
We asked our 3,000 respondents whether they thought the proposal was financially sustainable, whether they supported it at all, and whether they themselves had been significantly burdened by healthcare costs in recent years.
What is your opinion of the financial cost to the Government of expanding Medicare coverage to the entire population in the United States?
Do you support or not support the proposed policy of expanding Medicare coverage to the entire population in the United States?
In the past few years, have you or your family been significantly financially burdened by any healthcare costs?
Altogether, 3 in 10 respondents thought expanding Medicare coverage to the entire American population would be financially unsustainable, while 3 in 10 respondents thought the proposal would be expensive but possible to manage. Another 10% of respondents thought it wouldn’t roughly raise government expenditure significantly. 14% of respondents even thought doing so would be cheaper than not expanding it. A respectable majority (56%) of respondents altogether went on to say they supported the policy of expanding Medicare, including 21% who thought it was financially unstainable!
Unsurprisingly, those who voted in 2016 for Donald Trump and for Hillary Clinton respectively fell into somewhat differing camps. Half of past Trump voters thought it would be financially sustainable, whereas less than a fifth of Clinton voters did so. Critically, 41% of past Trump voters supported the policy. Past Trump voters also appeared as likely as past Clinton voters to have been significantly financially burdened by healthcare costs in the past few years.
As such, healthcare may therefore present itself as a sore issue for President Donald Trump as he aims to win re-election. With a majority of Americans seeming to support the expansion of healthcare, particularly at a time when the country is faced with the coronavirus epidemic, the President must himself present a credible solution to this complex problem.