A new poll finds that more voters favor an optional government-run health insurance plan, as former Vice President Joe Biden advocates, than full-scale Medicare for All that eliminates private health insurance, as advocated by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The poll could give credence to Biden’s argument against his main two rivals in the Democratic White House race, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), that an optional plan is more popular in a general election than the full-scale Medicare for All that Sanders and Warren advocate.
The USC/Los Angeles Times poll finds that 48 percent of eligible voters support giving everyone the option of a government-run health insurance plan, compared to just 14 percent who oppose it. Thirty-eight percent had not heard enough to have an opinion.
The full-scale Medicare for All, which eliminates private health insurance, polls somewhat worse. That proposal gets 39 percent support to 34 percent opposition.
Warren and Sanders are outspoken supporters of that full-scale Medicare for All, brushing aside worries about eliminating private insurance by arguing that people will not miss having to deal with private health insurance companies and that their new coverage will be more generous, with no copays or deductibles.
Among only Democratic primary voters, the poll found many supported both ideas. More than 4 in 10 voters supported both the optional plan and full-scale Medicare for All. Nineteen percent supported only the optional plan and 14 percent supported only full Medicare for All.
The polling could also become important as Democrats weigh which of their candidates might best contend with President Trump.
An increasing number of polls show all three candidates defeating Trump in one-on-one matchups, but a key part of Biden’s campaign has been the argument that he is more electable to Democrats in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that Democrats lost to Trump in 2016. Implicit in Biden’s message is that Democrats might lose to Trump if they run too far to the left.
Warren and Sanders have both pointed to polls showing that they would beat Trump in head-to-head matchups.
Questions about Biden’s gaffes and age have also raised questions about his own electability, with some critics saying he would be an easy target for Trump.