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Americans support an actual ‘government takeover of health care,’ and I don’t mean Obamacare

Am amazing 71% of Americans support having the option of having the government takeover their health care, including 63% of Republican respondents.

On the heels of the closing of the second year of open enrollment for Obamacare coverage, expect to hear a lot of “government takeover of health care” ranting from conservatives.

That phrase is heavily used by anti-Obamacare zealots, and that is no accident.  In 2009, Republican political consultant and celebrated wordsmith Frank Luntz advised his conservative clients to portray the proposed Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as “a government takeover of health care.”

Conservatives did as they were told. If you Google those words, you’ll see that the usage of that phrase, and close variations, has been widespread among conservatives ever since.

In a 28-page strategy memo, Luntz explained why stressing a Washington “takeover” was so important:

“Takeovers are like coups.  They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom.”

In other words, the Affordable Care Act shouldn’t be talked about as it were a legislative proposal in a representative democracy.  Instead, it should be talked about as if it were a Stalin-esque freedom grab.

There are two problems with conservatives parroting the Luntz-recommended phrase “government takeover of health care” to make Americans fearful about health care reform: First, It’s demonstrably false.  Second, It doesn’t scare most Americans.

False.  I’m not going to go into detail about why it is false, because it’s pretty self-evident.  But suffice it to say that ‘government takeover of health care” as a descriptor for the Affordable Care Act was named by the non-partisan editors of Politifact as their 2010 “Lie of the Year.”   In a lie-intensive election year, “government takeover of healthcare” was named by both editors and readers as the Pants on Fire of all Pants’s on Fire.  Politifact notes the obvious:

“It is inaccurate to call the plan a government takeover because it relies largely on the existing system of health coverage provided by employers.

It’s true that the law does significantly increase government regulation of health insurers. But it is, at its heart, a system that relies on private companies and the free market.”

Not Scary.  But beyond being false, the more surprising thing to me is that “government takeover of health care” is not all that scary to a  majority of Americans.

While Obamacare is not remotely close to a government takeover of health care, putting Americans into the government-run Medicare program would be exactly that.  And you know what? Most Americans are just fine with even that level of government takeover of health care.

A January 2015 GBA Strategiessurvey asked Americans if they support enactment of “a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance through an expanded, universal form of Medicare.” By a 15-point margin, a majority of Americans (51% support, 36% oppose) supported that kind of government takeover of health care.

The same survey then asked Americans about giving people the option of having government take over their health care.   Specifically, the survey asked if respondents would support giving “all Americans the choice of buying health insurance through Medicare or private insurers, which would provide competition for insurance companies and more options for consumers.” Am amazing 71% of Americans support having the option of having the government takeover their health care, including 63% of Republican respondents.

So it turns out that, after six years of intensive Luntz-led vilification of “government takeover of health care,” backed by hundreds of millions of dollars of political advertising and public relations efforts, there are very few issues in America today with as much public support as there is for the federal government taking over American health care.

This post was written by Joe Loveland and originally published on Wry Wing Politics.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/19/2015 - 10:47 am.

    I have no doubt

    that in this society, a majority of the people would rather have someone take care of them than to be self-reliant.

    That doesn’t make it a good idea, nor is it consistent with living it what was supposed to be a free society.

    • Submitted by Wayne Coppock on 02/20/2015 - 09:58 am.

      You’re right, I’d love to have someone else (like a doctor) take care of me when I’m sick.

      But I guess if you have a first aid kit you can probably be self-reliant and take care of yourself, right?

  2. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/19/2015 - 11:49 am.

    Health Care

    Much as people rant and rave about the “gub’mint takeover” of health care, it’s the only thing that makes sense. Many other countries have already done it and the move hasn’t lead to a collapse of western society. Quite the opposite in fact. It leads to more worker mobility as people can move jobs without having to worry about a gap in coverage. Businesses love it because they can then hire the best candidate and they have a LOT less paperwork to deal with as insurance is handled at the government level instead of the business level.

    My only caveat is the coverage should be universal as that creates the largest pool and gives us the cheapest rates. Which isn’t to say there isn’t still an option for private insurance. Medicare won’t cover everything under the sun, so people who want additional coverage can still go to the private sector for additional service. Just keep in mind that they’ll also be paying for executive perks like private planes and billion dollar golden parachutes.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/19/2015 - 11:58 am.

    We’ve actually known this for a long time

    Yet, the first thing democrats did was take the public option off the table.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/19/2015 - 01:09 pm.

    Awkward timing….Ranting from auditors.

    Legislative auditor: ‘We think MNsure performed badly”

    Litany of failures cited in agency review….

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/19/2015 - 03:02 pm.

    Once again

    …how you phrase the question makes a huge difference in the response. One might also note that the public at large appears to be several steps ahead of legislators, whether at the state level or the national level.

  6. Submitted by Neal Gendler on 02/19/2015 - 04:16 pm.

    A huge gain

    I would expect that attempts to make Medicare the universal national coverage would set off Republican-inspired rants and howls about a new (or larger) bureaucracy, but I suspect that actually doing it would create unemployment. I cannot imagine that doubling or even tripling the Medicare administrative staff would mean employing the huge numbers of people who now administer private insurance.

    For one thing, there’d be scant demand for the blizzard of paperwork as plans try to deny full coverage or to make a different plan cover someone’s illness or injury.

    For another, there’d be no stockholders demanding dividends and rising share prices. And there’d be a reduction of costs from a welcome a collapse in the number of six- and seven-figure annual payouts to executives. (How many claims do you suppose have to be denied or reduced to pay health-insurer executives tens of millions of dollars a year?)

    The whole system now is corrupt, as can be seen by looking at explanations of benefits; the differences between what providers bill and what some plans, including Medicare, pay providers is enormous. An individual without medical insurance would have to be a charity case or very rich not to go bankrupt after a complicated, prolonged course of treatment.

    Of course, universal national health insurance is the norm in the rest of the Western world, but what could those Stalinists know compared with the U.S. cowboy ideal of rugged individualism?

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/19/2015 - 08:31 pm.

    True comparison

    I always like it what people praise Western European health system… Have they ever talked to anyone from those countries how it works? Because it is ineffective. Plus, the only reason they can afford it is because they hardly pay anything for their defense relying instead on American might.. But good try – better than praising Cuban system as Michael Moore did.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/19/2015 - 09:20 pm.


      Considering we pay as much for “defense” as the next sixteen countries combined, I think we can afford to dial back on that a bit and put some funds towards health care. Better to spend it healing people than blowing them up, eh? Let those other countries pick up the tab for their defense instead of asking us to subsidize them.

      Health care is a worthy cause. Bombs…not so much.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/20/2015 - 07:14 am.

      I spent a year in Cambridge, England, fairly recently while on

      sabbatical at Cambridge University.

      The system worked very well. When someone in my family, was sick on a Sunday, we were able to get in to see a doctor immediately and then to get medicine from a pharmacy on the same day. Other healthcare needs were attended to very satisfactorily over a year’s stay.

      Ineffective? I disagree.

    • Submitted by Joe Loveland on 02/20/2015 - 04:28 pm.

      Survey says: Most Brits love socialized medicine

      Random anecdote aside, a recent survey found the vast majority of Brits love their health care system. This survey shows the NHS is a more popular institution than the British monarchy, army, and the Olympics. “Seventy two per cent of people declared the NHS to be “a symbol of what is great about Britain and we must do everything we can to maintain it.”

  8. Submitted by Joe Musich on 02/19/2015 - 10:21 pm.

    Just talk with your neigbors ….

    asI have. And mine are politically mixed. Essentailly they all agree with the findings of the referred to report. Some respondents here do not live in my neighborhood. But their opinions would not do much to change the big picture of the neighborhood thinking.

  9. Submitted by Margaret Houlehan on 02/19/2015 - 10:54 pm.

    If you support Single Payer

    Please ask your legislators to support State Sen. John Marty’s legislation for universal health care in Minnesota, SB 0008. Get active in your churches and communities and educate any one you speak with about Single Payer.

    I welcome Big Insurance’s demise. I agree that they can retain a role for extras, such as concierge care.

    By the way, most people in nations with universal care would never exchange their systems for what passes for “health care” in the US.

    Only in this country are most of us one major illness or accident from bankruptcy. American exceptionalism, indeed.

  10. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/20/2015 - 08:28 pm.


    Mr. Hintz, I would be happy, along with you, if European countries take care of their own defense. Will they?

    Mr. Gleason, I appreciate your experience but when I talked to people from those countries they were not that happy.

    Mr. Loveland, the polls shows that people like what they have but they do not have much to compare. And it’s free – a big plus.

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