Many Americans are unaware of what "Medicare for all" is or what it would do, according to a new survey released Friday.
Forty-six percent of adults say they haven't heard of Medicare for all, a health care proposal gaining traction in the Democratic Party.
Another 40 percent said they have heard "some talk" about Medicare for all, while 13 percent said they have heard a lot about it, according to the poll by NORC at the University of Chicago.
While the idea is becoming more popular among Democrats, there are competing proposals that would do different things, which could create confusion among the public, the researchers said.
“ 'Medicare for all’ is a term that means something different to everyone, which makes it hard for the public to understand how such a program would work,” said Caroline Pearson, senior fellow at NORC.
“As the policy debate unfolds, politicians will need to coalesce around some key parameters of a Medicare-for-All proposal to help voters understand the impact.”
Some plans introduced in Congress, like one from Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin suggests pausing talks on .5 trillion package until 2022: report Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Sanders calls deadly Afghan drone strike 'unacceptable' MORE (I-Vt.), would extend coverage to all Americans with no cost-sharing. Others would give individuals 55 and older the option to buy into the program.
According to the poll, 55 percent of Americans think participating in a Medicare for all-style health care system would be optional, going against the crux of Sanders's plan.
An additional 41 percent believe it would be mandatory.
Sanders's plan would automatically enroll individuals in a universal program while eliminating employer-sponsored health care coverage and private plans and sunsetting the traditional Medicare and Medicaid programs.
That differs from other plans that would allow employers to continue offering coverage.
Forty-nine percent of those surveyed thought Medicare for all would have a positive impact on the U.S. health care system by reducing patient costs, while 26 percent thought the opposite.
But the poll also showed 47 percent of Americans think Medicare for all would increase the amount the U.S. spends on health care.
The survey, which included 1,021 interviews, was conducted from Dec. 13 to 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.26 percentage points.