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Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: A Flip-Flop on National Health Insurance
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: A Flip-Flop on National Health Insurance

In November 1945, President Harry Truman proposed establishing a federal health insurance program for all Americans -- essentially single-payer government insurance similar to what Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing today. Shortly thereafter, Gallup found 59% of Americans who were familiar with Truman's proposal saying they favored the plan. By March 1949, however, support had fallen to 38%. It then dropped to 33% in November and to 24% by October 1950.

Trend: Americans' Support for President Harry Truman's Health Insurance Plan

In 1949, between 43% and 45% of Americans familiar with the plan were aware that it would be paid for through new payroll taxes. The rest were mostly unsure of how it would be funded.

The plan's ultimate demise may be better explained by the results to a different question Gallup posed to the "familiar" group in March 1949: "Do you happen to know whether doctors of the country, in general, are for or against President Truman's plan for compulsory health insurance?" Seventy percent said doctors were against it.

And, in the same 1949 poll, Americans were asked to choose between Truman's plan for government insurance paid for through new taxes and the American Medical Association's plan. That plan relied on an expansion of private health insurance, with medical care for the poor funded by federal aid to the states. Americans backed the AMA's plan over Truman's, 47% to 33%.

Americans' Preferred Medical Insurance System
Which of these two plans would you, yourself, prefer -- (1) the proposed plan of the Truman administration which would require a deduction like Social Security from all salary checks (or wage envelopes) and which would provide all employed persons and their families with insurance for medical, dental and hospital expenses, or 2) the proposed plan of the American Medical Association which would encourage more people to take out medical and hospital insurance with organizations like Blue Cross or private insurance companies, with the government providing money to states and local communities to take care of poor and unemployed people who can't afford proper medical attention?
  March 6-11, 1949%
Truman administration plan 33
American Medical Association plan 47
Neither 7
Not sure 13
Based on those familiar with Truman's plan (56% of U.S. adults)

In fact, the Truman Library and others identify the AMA's fierce opposition to the Truman plan -- calling it "socialized medicine" -- as the main reason for the plan's demise. It was about this time that Republicans launched their 1950 midterm election campaign slogan, "Liberty Versus Socialism."

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

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