The Coronavirus Has Created Record Support for Medicare For All

A new poll shows a solid majority of Americans in favor of Medicare For All. It should come as no surprise — the horrors of the private health insurance system are now being put on full display.

Medical workers wait for patients at a special coronavirus intake area at Maimonides Medical Center which has seen an upsurge of patients on April 2, 2020 in Borough Park section of Brooklyn in New York City. Spencer Platt / Getty

Amid all the anxiety and uncertainty of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a majority of Americans do at least seem sure of one thing: they want Medicare For All.

According to a new poll released this week by Morning Consult, popular support for a single-payer program (M4A) has tied for a record high in the history of the firm’s own research – commanding a solid 55 percent support among all registered voters. Representing a nine-point jump since February, the surge has been driven in large part by independents, a majority of whom support M4A for the first time since June 2019.

The causes of this shift are not hard to identify given the scope of the current crisis and the strain it has visibly placed on America’s already ramshackle and largely profit-driven health care system. With unemployment set to reach record highs in the coming months (almost 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in the last two weeks alone) an already underinsured and vulnerable population is probably wondering about the rationality and viability of a model that ties health care so intimately to employment. As Morning Consult’s Yusra Murad was quick to note:

As the domestic COVID-19 caseload spirals and economists predict a historic surge in unemployment, millions of Americans are bracing for potentially untenable health care costs and lapses in coverage, reviving questions about the viability of a health system that relies on binding insurance to employment.

Murad further observes that “the only program proving capable of swift, aggressive action to address COVID-19” has been the federally run Medicare program, which continues to perform far better than its exclusionary and overly bureaucratic competitors in the private sector.

The new numbers are particularly extraordinary given the scale of the industry-wide effort to undermine M4A — one amplified by many leading Democrats including the party’s current frontrunner Joe Biden. who recently reiterated his opposition to M4A. They also mark a considerable shift in public opinion mere weeks into a pandemic whose full economic impact has yet to be felt or even known.

With spiraling unemployment ahead, M4A’s popularity seems likely to grow. Adding to this, a new analysis from Covered California (the state insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act) suggests premiums could increase considerably next year as carriers try to “recoup 2020 costs, price for the same level of costs next year, and protect their solvency,“ with some seeing increases as high as 40 percent.

Given this direction of travel, Democratic politicians who continue to oppose the necessary overhaul of America’s health care system can expect to pay an increasingly steep political price for their opposition — particularly from vulnerable demographics they’ll need to secure the presidency and win back a majority in the Senate.

But whatever its short-term political impact, the coronavirus pandemic is yet again underscoring the chronic dysfunction of America’s mostly profit-driven health care system — and the deep inhumanity at its core.