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Coronavirus pandemic makes universal healthcare more popular in latest Morning Consult poll

Twenty-six percent of U.S. adults say they're "much more likely" to support such policy initiatives, while 15% say they're somewhat more likely.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

The news may be too little, too late for Sen. Bernie Sanders' increasingly unlikely bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, but the concept of universal healthcare is becoming more popular among Americans – and the COVID-19 novel coronavirus is the reason behind it.

Sanders has been the biggest proponent of Medicare for All, which would expand the federal program to cover all Americans. But in recent weeks, Sanders' plan and campaign have taken a back seat to former Vice President Joe Biden, whose healthcare approach centers more around strengthening the Affordable Care Act.

Now though, with the coronavirus sweeping across the globe, about 41% of those polled by Morning Consult between March 12 and 13 say they're more likely to support universal healthcare proposals. Twenty-six percent of U.S. adults say they're "much more likely" to support such policy initiatives, while 15% say they're somewhat more likely.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

The poll comes as President Donald Trump's administration has been criticized by what some public health experts see as inadequate preparation and response to the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike countries such as South Korea, which quickly deployed universally accessible screening, the U.S. has been at a disadvantage, with testing kits and personal protection equipment in short supply.

As expected, Democrats were the most favorable to the idea, with 59% saying they were either much more likely or somewhat more likely to support a universal healthcare proposal. Just 21% of Republicans said the same. Independents were somewhere in the middle, with 34% warming up to the idea of blanket coverage.

More than 21% of Republicans said they were less likely to support universal care in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Seven percent of independents reported the same, while for Democrats the number was statistically insignificant.

Despite criticism to the response, a 35% plurality of those polled said the U.S. government is doing better than most countries at containing the coronavirus, with 28% saying the country is faring no better or worse than others. Twenty-four percent say the U.S. is doing worse than other countries.

THE LARGER TREND

Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has stopped short of proposals that would immediately extend coverage to all Americans. Instead he favors incremental changes, such as adding a public health-insurance option to the ACA. According to his campaign website, the public option would reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other providers, and cover primary care without copayments.

His plan would also increase the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more people; stop surprise billing; repeal an exception allowing drug companies to avoid negotiating with Medicare over prices; limit launch prices for drugs that face no competition; and limit drug-price increases to inflation, as well as allow consumers to buy drugs from other countries.

The Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget has estimated the plan would cost about $2.85 trillion to implement, and would lead to $1.2 trillion in cost reduction to the system, with an additional $2.1 trillion coming from direct and additional offsets.

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com