The response is one of the many findings in a yet-to-be-published poll by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) of 1,637 registered voters weeks before the 2020 general election. The poll also found that voters have a positive view of the quality and coverage of health care in the United States (82 percent) and are more interested in fixing current issues than reworking the system through radical changes.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said they agreed the current health system does not work, primarily because it costs too much. Most respondents blamed “companies charging too much,” with the pharmaceutical industry being at the top of the list (70 percent) followed by health insurers (63 percent) and hospitals and providers (56 percent).
Obamacare v. Alternatives
An interesting aspect of Obamacare is that people have accepted it, says Dean Clancy, a senior policy fellow at AFP, in an April 26 episode of The Heartland Daily Podcast.
“People like the idea that it puts a health insurance card in more people’s hands, and it has done that,” Clancy said. “We are close to functional universal coverage in this country.”
However, Obamacare has had some downsides. Premiums have doubled, deductibles have tripled, and access to preferred doctors and hospitals has narrowed.
“An Obamacare plan is like a Medicaid HMO but with a high deductible. Yet, people don’t want to take it away from other people,” Clancy said.
The poll asked respondents about four possible “fixes”: enacting a “Medicare for All” plan, offering a public option, expanding Obamacare, or introducing a “personal health care” option, which trusts people to make their own health care decisions through flexible, individualized options for care and insurance.
“We asked people to choose,” Clancy said. “We had a positive description of each of those things.”
Surprisingly, 29 percent chose the personal option, followed by Medicare for All (17 percent), the public option (14 percent), and expanding Obamacare (11 percent).
“Democrats were much more open to the personal option than we expected,” Clancy said. “They are kind of split among the various options—even a significant number of Democrats who don’t want to change anything in our health care system. This suggests to us that Democratic leaders and politicians have gotten too left of their party faithful.”
Selling the Personal Option
Proponents of a personal option have one advantage in selling the plan to the public: few people understand what the “public option” really is. When asked “to which of the following do you think the term public option most likely refers,” only 26 percent answered correctly. Seventy-four percent guessed voting rights, education, stock market, media, environmental issues, criminal justice, or said “unsure.”
AFP defines the personal option as “a commonsense alternative to plans like the public option that put government in key control.” It entails several key components such as affordable insurance premiums, reasonably priced life-saving drugs, easy and affordable access to doctors of one’s choice, knowledge of prices upfront, and a safety net for the vulnerable.
Free-market solutions in the health care market have often come under attack, as consumers have grown accustomed to having a third party or the government pick up the tab. Prices have become so high under the current system that consumers have been fearful of going it alone. Clancy said politicians would be smart to avoid fearmongering.
“The key is to make sure people understand what the personal option is,” Clancy said. “It is voluntary, it is not taking anything away but giving people more options. These big government-government centric plans are just not where the public is, including Democrats.”
AnneMarie Schieber (email@example.com) is the managing editor of Health Care News.
“A Personal Option for Health Care,” Americans for Prosperity: https://americansforprosperity.org/personal-option/
“Democrats Prefer Personal of Public Health Care Options,” The Heartland Daily Podcast, April 26, 2021: https://soundcloud.com/user-694711047/democrats-prefer-personal-over-public-health-care-options-guest-dean-clancy