Democrats back Medicare for all in about half of House races they’re contesting

WASHINGTON – Democratic candidates for the House are backing a Medicare for all approach to the nation’s health care system in just over half the races in which a Democrat is on the ballot, according to a new survey provided first to USA TODAY.

The tally by National Nurses United, which supports a government-run, single-payer system, shows how the idea has risen in popularity even as Republicans attack the plan as socialized medicine.

“This is historic,” said Ken Zinn, the group’s political director. “The campaign has really picked up steam.”

But polls show the public is still fuzzy on the details of “Medicare for all,” and support drops when they’re given more information. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation defines the program as one that would replace virtually all other sources of private health coverage and most public programs.

“When you talk about policy details, that whole discussion is something different,” said Mollyann Brodie, senior vice president of public opinion and survey research at Kaiser Family Foundation. “And we don’t know entirely how things will play out.”

Plus, Democrats will need to win a lot of races where they’re the underdog to substantially increase the number of House members backing the plan. Just under two-thirds of the 193 Democrats in the House are already co-sponsors of a Medicare for all bill.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is not a co-sponsor, said in June that Medicare for all will be one of the proposals considered if Democrats take the House. But, noting that she’s always been for a “public option,” Pelosi said all proposals would “have to be evaluated in terms of the access that they give, the affordability of it and how we pay for it.”

“It’s all on the table,” she said.

Democrats have made health care one of their top campaign issues this cycle after many Republicans voted for failed legislation last year that would have removed millions of Americans from the rolls of the insured. Many are pledging to fix the flaws in Obamacare while targeting GOP attempts to “sabotage” it. But Republicans in battleground districts are trying to tie Democrats to Medicare for all, even in some cases where the candidates say they don’t support the approach.

“Voters have and will continue to reject a complete government takeover of the health care system,” said Jesse Hunt, national press secretary at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

In an op-ed for USA TODAY, President Donald Trump ripped apart Medicare for all as “just the beginning” of a socialist agenda for Democrats. He said the program would cost an “astonishing” $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years, a reference to a study by the Mercatus Center of George Mason University of a health care plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who may run in 2020.

Politifact found that Americans in the aggregate would pay more to the government to fund health care but less overall than they pay now. The fact-checking site also noted the study forecast that total health care spending would drop by about $2 trillion over 10 years.

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