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Yes, the GOP’s Still Out of Touch

We’ve talked a little bit about the problems that Democrats are having on health care messaging. But just in case you needed a reminder that two can play at this game — this is from Representative Tom Price (R-GA), in a Politico editorial unveiling the Republicans’ “new” health care plan:

Thursday marks the anniversary of the most significant piece of health care legislation in our nation’s history. It was on this day in 1965 that President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law, ensuring government health care for seniors. Forty-four years later, Congress is debating another monumental act that may affect the health coverage of every American.

Contrary to what the president has tried to convince the American people of, while we oppose his misguided ideas, Republicans are committed to positive health reform. No one in Congress finds the status quo acceptable. […]

Going down the path of more government will only compound the problem. While the stated goal remains noble, as a physician, I can attest that nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government’s intrusion into medicine through Medicare. Because of Washington’s one-size-fits-all approach, its flawed coverage rules and broken financing mechanisms, seniors are increasingly having care rationed while federal health spending spirals out of control.

Emphasis mine. Medicare is one of the most popular “government intrusions” in the United States. About 60 percent of people participating in Medicare rate their coverage as a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale (versus 36-40 percent for private insurance), and 84 percent rate it as a 7 out of 10 or higher (h/t Mark Blumenthal). In the most recent Kaiser Foundation tracking poll, moreover, 77 percent of Americans would like to see Medicare expanded to people aged 55 and older. Questions that refer to the public option as a “Medicare-like” program usually receive higher scores than those that don’t. Questions that refer to single-payer as “Medicare-for-all” usually receive plurality or majority support: 58 percent, for instance, in the Kaiser poll. Yes, people have concerns about the long-term fiscal stability of Medicare — but not about the care it provides.

To compare the President’s current reform efforts to Medicare is for all intents and purposes a Democratic talking point. That Republicans saw fit to include it in what was surely supposed to be a boffo editorial outlining their new plan suggests that they may talk their way out of stopping health care reform yet.

More generally, there’s not a lot of evidence that Americans have strong ideological dispositions about health insurance. Health insurance is about the three C’s: (low) cost, (broad) coverage and choice of treatment and physicians. If Americans can be convinced that publicly-run insurance plans can help them achieve those things, they will happily support them.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight.