Feb 14, 2020 - Health

What Iowa and New Hampshire tell us about Medicare for All

Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

Health care was voters’ top issue in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and it benefitted Sen. Bernie Sanders as well as his more moderate rivals.

The big picture: Sanders has emerged as a national front-runner thanks in part to a base that’s deeply committed to his Medicare for All plan, even as polling data indicate that more moderate ideas like a public option have a broader base of support.

By the numbers: 37% of voters in the New Hampshire exit poll said health care was their top issue, placing it ahead of climate change, income inequality or foreign policy. Results were similar in Iowa entrance polls.

  • A majority (61%) of New Hampshire primary voters supported both a public option and a Sanders-style single-payer plan.
  • Just 6% support only single-payer, and not a public option, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of AP VoteCast data, while 26% support a more moderate plan but not single-payer.

“Single-payer or bust” voters overwhelmingly supported Sanders, while the “public option or bust” group was split among Pete Buttigieg (35%), Amy Klobuchar (34%) and Joe Biden (12%).

My thought bubble: The hardcore single-payer fans are a small group, even among Democrats. 

  • It’s big enough to win in a crowded primary, but the broader — albeit divided — support for a more moderate plan may be a signal about the general election.

Yes, but: Even among those Democratic voters in New Hampshire who said health care was the most important issue, more said it’s very important to have a candidate who can beat President Trump (89%) than one who has the best policy ideas (60%).

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Driving the news: With 60% of precincts counted (slow, but better than Iowa!), Sanders is running away with 46% of delegates — crushing Joe Biden's 20%, Pete Buttigieg's 15%, Sen. Elizabeth Warren's 10% and Sen. Amy Klobuchar's 5%.

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Why it matters: We've been writing for months that Democrats have a major choice ahead, either picking an advocate of Medicare for All — and siding with the plan that's less popular with the rest of the country — or a public option advocate.

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Why it matters: Ocasio-Cortez is a vocal proponent of Medicare for All and one of Sanders' highest-profile surrogates. She told HuffPost: "The worst-case scenario? We compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option. Is that a nightmare? I don’t think so."

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