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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bernie Sanders’ proposed healthcare plan is the most popular of any of the three remaining presidential candidates’, even surpassing the Affordable Care Act, according to recent polling performed by Gallup.

“Americans express considerable support for the idea of replacing the ACA with a federally run national healthcare system, which is similar to the proposal championed by presidential candidate Sanders. To be sure, many Americans, primarily Democrats, also favor the idea of just keeping the ACA in place,” the report said. “But given a choice, those who favor both proposals come down on the side of the Sanders-type proposal. Four in 10 Republicans also favor the idea of a federally funded system.”

The poll revealed that a federally funded healthcare system has become an increasingly popular proposition across the country. Seventy-three percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters said they supported such a system. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning voters, the number was 41 percent.

The percentage of Republican voters who supported a publicly funded healthcare plan was surprising, even for Gallup’s pollsters. “Forty-one percent of Republicans favor the proposal — much higher than the 16% who favor keeping the ACA in place. This may reflect either that Republicans genuinely think a single-payer system would be good for the country, or that they view any proposal to replace the ACA (“Obamacare”) as better than keeping it in place,” said the report.

A total of 58 percent of respondents said they wanted to replace the ACA with a federally funded healthcare system that provides insurance for all Americans, a public healthcare system similar to the ones employed in Canada and various European countries. Furthermore, 51 percent of respondents said they supported repealing the ACA, which both Sanders and Donald Trump said they would do if elected, although with different outcomes with regards to the rate of insured Americans and the cost of operating such a program.

Sanders has called for a Medicare-for-all plan, at the cost of $13.8 trillion over the next decade. His plan’s single payer system, which the campaign said would cost $6 trillion less than the current healthcare system over the next decade, promises to save the average middle class family $9,000 a year compared to the cost of deductibles and premiums most families pay currently.

But the Tax Policy Center, an independent research center backed by the Urban Institute and Brookings, said his plan would increase government spending by $18 trillion over the next decade, with an additional $3 trillion spent on interest costs, and could potentially decrease economic growth.

“The plan would grow federal deficits and the national debt to unprecedented levels. The ultimate distribution of benefits under the plan would depend upon whether the government financed that deficit through tax increases, spending cuts, increased borrowing, or some combination of these options,” said the report. “A plan substantially financed by borrowing could raise interest rates and impose a substantial drag on the economy.”

Trump’s healthcare plan also sits in opposition to the ACA, but not for the same reasons Sanders opposes it. According to Trump’s campaign site, only “letting the market decide” how much Americans should pay for health insurance can fix Obamacare’s incentive structure.

“We will work with Congress to make sure we have a series of reforms ready for implementation that follow free market principles and that will restore economic freedom and certainty to everyone in this country,” reads the campaign’s page on healthcare reform. “By following free market principles and working together to create sound public policy that will broaden healthcare access, make healthcare more affordable and improve the quality of the care available to all Americans.”

“Free market health insurance” was decidedly unpopular, despite the proclamations of the Trump campaign. In 2008, just before the ACA was passed, 82 percent of Americans surveyed in a poll by The Commonwealth Fund said the American healthcare system needed an overhaul. Over 50 million Americans were uninsured and it was the poor who were predominantly affected by the lack of a cheaper, government mandated alternative. An additional 29 percent were underinsured, despite the free market principles in control of healthcare costs until the passing of the ACA.

Furthermore, despite promising to rein in excessive government spending through favoring the private sector, Trump’s repeal efforts would be exorbitant if enacted. “Although repealing the coverage provisions would save about $1.1 trillion, based on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates (adjusted for recent legislation and changes in the budget window), repealing the legislation’s tax increases and Medicare cuts would cost a combined $1.6 trillion. In total, this means repeal would cost $480 billion – or $260 billion, including the economic benefits of repeal.

Only Hillary Clinton has said she would keep the program in place, although even then she has repeatedly committed herself to expanding coverage under the act’s provisions. While the total cost of her proposed program is unclear, the overhead involved in switching to either Sanders’ or Trump’s healthcare proposals would be significantly larger than any sort of expansion Clinton has in mind.

She has promised to invest $500 million per year to get Americans to register for the ACA, expand Medicare to cover people in their 50s and above, as opposed to the 65 year old threshold currently in place and limit consumers’ out-of-pocket prescription expenses to $250 a month.

A report by the Tax Policy Center said her plans would result in a government surplus of $1.5 trillion over the next decade and a further $2 trillion in the following decade.

But public sentiment is not on her side. A slim majority of respondents surveyed in the Gallup poll said they would like to see the ACA repealed. And nearly one in six want to see it replaced by the plan offered by Sanders, showing increased interest in having publicly funded healthcare system.

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