A majority of Americans with employer-based health insurance don’t mind if it changes to Medicare for All — as long as they can keep their current coverage

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a news conference to introduce the

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Democratic U.S. presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks at a news conference to introduce the “Medicare for All Act of 2019” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2019.
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Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

  • Over 59% of respondents who receive health insurance through their employer said in a new INSIDER poll they would be fine switching to a government insurance plan under “Medicare for All’ – as long as it meant no change in coverage.
  • The results highlight how a majority of Americans are fairly satisfied with the employer-based health coverage they have, which supports other polling on the subject.
  • And the respondents’ attitude toward “Medicare for All” reflects a dynamic that candidates who champion it – like Sen. Bernie Sanders – are counting on: If the system provides equal or more comprehensive benefits, then Americans are likely to support it.
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Over 59% of respondents who receive health insurance through their employer said in a new INSIDER poll they would be fine if that plan changed, as long as it meant no change in coverage.

As the battle lines are drawn within the Democratic party over the proposed government insurance plan under “Medicare for All,’ that’s an encouraging sign for advocates.

The results highlight the fact that although a majority of Americans are fairly satisfied with their employer-based health coverage – which supports other polling on the subject – mainly people just like being covered in general, bearing little loyalty to a specific insurer.

And the respondents’ attitude toward “Medicare for All” reflects a dynamic that candidates who champion it – like Sen. Bernie Sanders – are counting on: If the system provides equal or more comprehensive benefits, then broad swaths of Americans are likely to support it.

Here’s how the support broke down:

  • 44% of people said they were on an employer-based plan. Of them, 41% love their plan, 20% don’t like their plan, and 39% would be fine if it changed as long as they kept coverage.
  • 28% were on Medicare, Medicaid or military coverage. Of them, 57% love their plan, 14% don’t like their plan, and 29% would be fine if it changed as long as they kept coverage.
  • 12% directly purchased health insurancee. 39% love their plan, 22% don’t like their plan, and 39% would be fine if it changed as long as they kept coverage.
  • 7% said they did not have health insurance.
  • 9% didn’t know or had some other type of coverage.

Read more: Here are some of the biggest arguments against Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ plan, which is gaining popularity among Democrats

Under Medicare for All, there would be a national health insurance system that would be funded by tax revenue and cover everyone who lives in the US. It would also pay for every medically-needed service, ranging from doctor visits to mental healthcare to prescription drugs.

But the plan would also replace employer-based health insurance, which is the most important source of health coverage for non-elderly Americans. It covered about 58% of this population in 2017, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In INSIDER’s poll, those who were on some sort of government plan tended to be very satisfied with their coverage, especially compared to those who have private health insurance.

The results showed that among all respondents:

  • 59% said they would support switching their employer-based health insurance to a government plan under Medicare for All. This figure includes 20% of respondents who said they “didn’t like” their plan, which are more likely to contain voters more persuadable to back Medicare for All.
  • 57% said they “love” their plans, 16 points more than the 41% who said the same about their employer-based plans.
  • 22% said they didn’t like their directly-purchased health insurance – the highest dissatisfaction rate among the health insurance plans, though it was only two percentage points more than those who expressed dissatisfaction with their employer-based plans.

The poll comes after the Democratic primary field brawled in the July primary debates over the future of the American healthcare system, and how “Medicare for All” could reshape it.

Among the starkest divides that played out among the 2020 presidential candidates was whether Americans would be able to keep their coverage if the healthcare system is fundamentally disrupted.

Candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden said Americans should be able to keep their plans if they like them. But he’s criticized Sanders’ plan since it would virtually do away with private health insurance.

Read more: Bernie Sanders says Joe Biden is doing what ‘Republicans do’ when it comes to his healthcare plan

INSIDER asked over 1,100 respondents their feelings about their health insurance and whether they would be open to changing it. Specifically, we asked: “Which of the following best describes how you feel about your health insurance coverage,” and respondents were asked to indicate the type of plan they had – employer-sponsored, government or direct – and how they felt about it. The options given were: “I love my plan,” “I’d be fine if it changed as long as I have coverage,” and “I don’t like the plan.”

Polling released last week from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 76% of the public rated their employer-sponsored health coverage as good or excellent. This sets up some peril for advocates of Medicare-for-All, as guaranteeing that degree of satisfaction presents a difficulty.

Still, INSIDER’s polling at least indicates that even if people think their employer plan is great, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re opposed to changing it.

For Democrats, it means the final policy should carry out a clean reform of the healthcare system that doesn’t disrupt it in a way that Americans can feel, lest they face a political backlash.

SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn’t try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,111 respondents collected August 1, 2019 with a margin of error plus or minus 3.01 percentage points and a 95% confidence level. See this page for more details about our methodology.