Americans Really Do Want Universal Health Care

5 mins read

When actress Sally Field won the 1985 Academy Award, she said, in essence: You like me. You really like me. I think if you were to ask Americans if they want universal health care they would respond similarly: We want it. We really want it. In fact, I know it’s true because each year the Gallup polling organization asks Americans if they think the government should ensure health care for everyone and in their latest (2020) survey, 56% responded “yes” to that question.

Of course, how you respond to a survey question depends on how it is worded. With that in mind, I made up a few survey items that can be answered with a simple “agree” or “disagree.”

  • I would support a national health care program that guarantees that I (and my family) have health care coverage no matter my employment status (i.e., working full-time, working part-time, laid off, terminated, or between jobs).
  • I would support a national health care program where I don’t have to pay copays and deductibles. 
  • I would support a national health care program that allows me to go to the doctor of my choice.  
  • I would support a national health care program that guarantees there are no surprise bills, such as from a doctor who is not part of my insurance network. 
  • I would support a national health care program where the payments are less than what I currently pay for employer-based health insurance or individual health insurance through the insurance exchanges. 
  • I would support a national health care program where everyone pays into the system to ensure that there are no “freeloaders.” 
  • I would support a national health care program that helps the poorest Americans pay for health insurance to ensure that the cost of health care is not a burden on them.
  • I would support a national health care program that has the authority to negotiate the cost of medications with pharmaceutical companies.
  • I would support a national health care program that doesn’t pay health insurance executives multimillion dollar salaries. 
  • I would support a national health care program that covers the cost of new and experimental treatments and medications. 
  • I would support a national health care program that pays for dental and optical services.
  • I would support a national health care program that provides preventive services, such as vaccinations, annual wellness checkups, and health counseling services.

If you agree with most if not all of these survey questions, then you support the concept of universal health care. Some might criticize these questions and claim they only highlight the positive side of universal health care. Of course they do and that’s because universal health care is a better approach to delivering health care than the current hodgepodge of different insurance companies, with different mandates, different payment schedules, different paperwork, and different medication formularies. 

You may be wondering why no one has conducted a poll that asks these questions. Obviously, Republicans wouldn’t because the last thing they want is data that supports universal health care. Better to keep the current, expensive system where millions of Americans don’t have health insurance or often can’t afford to use the health insurance they have due to high, out-of-pocket costs. Better to support the health insurance industry, which makes large donations to the Republican Party, rather than the rest of the business sector which is struggling to pay for the high cost of employee insurance. 

Democrats are less beholden to the insurance industry but haven’t figured out the best way to pay for universal health care. They also aren’t very good at framing and communicating issues. If I was one of the Democratic candidates, I would hire a polling organization and have them administer these questions to a random sample. Imagine the boost that candidate could get if he or she could say, “Guess what? We asked a random sample of 1,200 Americans if they would support a national health program and by a broad margin they did!”


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David Colton, Ph.D., is a retired health care administrator and adjunct professor of health care administration at Mary Baldwin University, Staunton, VA. Research interests, publications, and conference presentations have focused on quality improvement and cultural change in behavioral health care organizations. He is the author of The Case for Universal Health Care (Clarity Press, 2019) and maintains a blog on the subject at www.universalhealthcarenow.com.

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