Biden-Linked Firm Tests Messages to Undercut ‘Medicare for All’


(Bloomberg) -- A new poll by a firm linked to Joe Biden is testing messages designed to undercut support among Democrats for Medicare for All, one of the most contentious issues splitting the party’s top presidential contenders.

The survey, commissioned by the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way, found that primary voters start off favoring the government-run health care system by a margin of 70% to 21%, but can be persuaded to oppose it. The study showed that Democrats are most swayed by the arguments that the program would impose a heavy cost on taxpayers and threaten Medicare for senior citizens.

The poll was conducted by Lisa Grove of Anzalone Liszt Grove Research. Her partner, John Anzalone, is the chief pollster and an adviser to Biden, who opposes Medicare for All and wants to make government-run insurance optional.

Biden’s main rivals, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, support Medicare for All, which would eliminate private insurance and create a system modeled on Medicare that automatically covers all Americans.

Sanders took aim at the survey and some of the arguments it is designed to test. “It is unfortunate but not surprising that Vice President Biden’s polling firm is helping distort what Medicare for All is about,” he said in a statement. Any tax increases would be used to eliminate costs for people seeking health care, Sanders said.

The survey found that Democrats are most swayed to oppose Medicare for All when told it would cost American taxpayers $3.2 trillion per year: 51% of Democratic primary voters said they found that argument convincing, while 43% said they did not.

The poll also found that 51% of Democratic voters said the argument that it would “end Medicare as we know it” was convincing, while 53% said the claim that it would lower quality of care for seniors was convincing. And 51% said the argument that Medicare for All could expand wait times and limit access to medical specialists was convincing.

Sanders, the author of a Medicare for All bill pending in Congress, has been upfront about the high cost but he and Warren have both argued that most Americans would come out financially ahead because their health care costs would drop. They argue that a single insurance plan would be the most cost-effective way to care for all Americans, while allowing everyone to see their provider of choice.

Notably, Democratic voters in the ALG Research survey were less swayed by the fear of losing private employer-based coverage — 45% said that argument was convincing while 49% said it was not.

The study conducted last month surveyed 813 Democratic primary voters in the election as part of an overall sample of 1,800 likely voters. It found that most general election voters also start off favoring Medicare for All but that support diminishes once they hear arguments against it.

Jim Kessler, Third Way’s executive vice president for policy, said the poll shows that President Donald “Trump is deeply underwater on health care and the only lifeline that could pull him to shore is Medicare for All.”

The messages tested in the poll echo arguments made by Republicans against Medicare for All. Democrats are split on whether the proposal would be a liability in a general election or whether it would boost the party’s hopes of defeating Trump by galvanizing voters.

The survey also tested positive messages for Medicare for All. It showed that 78% of Democrats were swayed by the argument that the U.S. should join the rest of the world in making health care a right. In addition, 70% of primary voters were swayed by the argument that Medicare for All would get rid of out-of-pocket costs for anyone seeking care.

Kessler added that ALG Research has conducted polls for Third Way for many years and that the Biden campaign didn’t request the survey.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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