When Medicare was being created in 1964, Ronald Reagan said, “I think we are against forcing all citizens, regardless of need, into a compulsory government program.”
To this day, conservatives continue to resist universal programs. In his 2008 State of the Union address, President Bush once again mentioned private health savings accounts, despite the fact that they may increase the number of uninsured Americans. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) similarly touts private plans, saying he wants people to “go out and choose their insurer anywhere in America.”
A new poll from NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, however, finds that most Americans reject conservatives’ approach to health care. In fact, the majority of the public supports mandates requiring Americans to purchase health insurance. NPR reports:
When asked whether they would support a broad proposal that would require everyone to get coverage, 59 percent said they would support it. Such a proposal would require employers to provide coverage or pay into a pool. The government would help low-income people get coverage, and insurance companies would be required to take anyone who applies. People who don’t get coverage through one of these channels or purchase it themselves would pay a fine.
As Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic notes, “In a system based on private insurance, a lot of people won’t obtain even affordable insurance without some sort of requirement.” This point is backed up by prominent health care experts such as Columbia’s Sherry Glied and former Clinton administration adviser on Medicare Bruce Vladeck, who have criticized the tactic of scaring Americans into thinking mandates will force them to buy unaffordable health coverage.
For a practical approach to guaranteeing an American right to affordable, quality health coverage, the Center for American Progress has more here.