Most people in the U.S. believe that the Federal government should ensure that their fellow Americans, a new Gallup Poll found. This sentiment has been relatively stable since 2000 except for two big outlying years: a spike of 69% in 2006, and a low-point in 2003 of 42%. In 2006, Medicare Part D launched, which may have boosted consumers’ faith in Federal healthcare programs. In contrast, in 2013 the Affordable Care Act was in implementation and consumer-adoption mode, accompanied by aggressive anti-“Obamacare” campaigns in mass media.
That’s the top lighter green line in the first chart. But while there’s majority support for universal health care, we should think broadly about this concept at this moment. Now, in late 2018, we look toward 2019 and the 2020 Presidential elections and must also contemplate the lower darker green line. This asked people whether they would prefer a government-run health system.
Most say, “no,” a proportion falling from the high of 47% “yes” in 2017 to 40% this year.
There’s still a big gap between Democrats and Republicans on this question. Most Democrats believe that the government should both ensure universal healthcare and run it. Two-thirds of Republicans do not believe the government should be responsible for ensuring that all Americans have healthcare, and only 13% think it should be a government-run system.
Gallup points out in its analysis that the government is already a major health care channeler and funder through Medicare and Medicaid. I’ll add into that the Veterans Administration system, and TRICARE (once known as “CHAMPUS,” health assurance for military service members and their families). The government currently covers nearly 50% of all healthcare payments (Federal combined with State for Medicaid share), with commercial insurance covering the other half.
Health Populi’s Hot Points: Health care access and affordability rank high on U.S. voters’ minds these days. The U.S. economy on a macro basis looks healthy, but this sanguine feeling hasn’t translated to the mass of American householders. Today, as I write this post, Wall Street is in seriously decline due to longer-term concerns about tariffs and jobs, the price of oil (low prices good for consumers filling petrol tanks, not good for the gas industry which, today, sees the U.S. in first place of production), and consumers putting more on credit than they did before the Great Recession hit.
Healthcare costs are part of a family’s budget in 2018, and that is a sure thing for 2019 as well. See the second chart, reported in a recent study by the Harvard Chan School of Public Health on Being Seriously Ill in the U.S.
Note that over one-half of people who were ill had serious problems paying at least one type of medical bill, from hospitals and prescription drugs to the doctor’s office and ambulance services.
What’s striking is that nearly as high proportions of people with health insurance who had problems paying medical bills — nearly all of the population who had financial stress in paying for healthcare.
What happens to these patients’ financial health?
That’s answered in the third chart. Fully one-third of patients have used up savings, and over one in five couldn’t pay for basic necessities like food, heat or housing.
The ultimate tipping point to longer-term financial stress is that one in three people lost or had to change their jobs as a result of being seriously ill in America.
This study surveyed about 1,500 people with serious illnesses or people who cared for those patients, polled in July and August 2018.
The call for universal health care assurance is clear. Without it, the next Great Recession will be driven by a growing proportion of Americans seeking personal bankruptcy.