As 'Medicare for All' debate gains steam, many Americans are on the fence: survey 

A new survey finds that many people are on the fence about "Medicare for All." (Senate Democrats/CC BY 2.0)

Though support or opposition for “Medicare for All” is dominating the 2020 primary headlines, a large group of Americans is more ambivalent about the proposal, a new survey shows. 

Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank, surveyed close to 9,600 people about their thoughts on single-payer healthcare. It found about 41% neither support or oppose such a transition. 

By comparison, about 30% said they support “Medicare for All” outright and about 28% said they oppose it, according to the survey.  

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The roughly half of respondents who were on the fence didn’t change when they were asked about other plans for attaining universal coverage. For example, 45% of respondents said they do not support or oppose offering a public option plan, while about 33% said they would support it and 21% oppose it. 

“This largely reflects that it’s all very complicated stuff,” John Holahan, a fellow at the institute and one of the report’s authors, told FierceHealthcare. “People kind of think they understand it, but then they’re not so sure.” 

RELATED: Some payers, providers could thrive under ‘Medicare for All’. But only if they’re willing to adapt 

The survey also dives into demographic characteristics of people more likely to support or oppose single-payer and examines attitudes and perceptions of the policy from both sides of the debate. 

Urban Institute found that young people, people of color and those who receive public health benefits were more likely to support. Older whites with higher incomes were more likely to oppose “Medicare for All,” according to the study. 

The racial divide was most stark, the survey found. About 35% of white respondents said that oppose single-payer, compared to about 12% of black respondents, 16% of Hispanic respondents and about 22% of multiracial respondents. 

Demographically, people who landed on the fence about “Medicare for All” were more similar to the policy’s supporters than its opponents, according to the report. 

“I think it’s not necessarily surprising those people who fall in the middle are people who look a lot like supporters,” Holahan said. “They’re maybe just not as confident in what they think about this.”

RELATED: What is ‘Medicare for All’? A look at 4 of the different possibilities 

The survey also found a pretty clear divide in how “Medicare for All” proponents and opponents view the potential impacts of the policy. For example, about 69% of supporters believe that wait times for care would be “about the same” under a single-payer system as they are today, while about 78% of opponents believe wait times would worsen. 

About 63% of supporters believe they would have similar access to their choice of providers under “Medicare for All,” while about 70% of opponents believe single-payer would make it harder to see the doctor of their choosing. 

“Medicare for All” supporters also largely believe that quality of care would remain the same, while opponents believe it would get worse, according to the survey. 

Respondents falling into the middle were generally in line with supporters on these beliefs, the survey found. 

“I think the biggest thing that surprised me is when you give the option of neither support or oppose how many took that option,” Holahan said. “People are persuadable probably in either direction.” 

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