Stories by Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation

Medicare for All is a double-edged sword for Democrats

Illustration of a miniature toy donkey next to a large pile of pills
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Now that they've won the House and the 2020 presidential campaign is about to start, Democrats will have to decide how much Medicare for All should dominate their health care agenda.

The big picture: The idea has strong appeal for many Democrats, as does the more limited approach of letting 50-64 year olds buy into Medicare. But both ideas also require spending political capital that could be devoted to other health issues. They also run the risk of dividing moderate and progressive Democrats, and could give Republicans the chance to get off the ropes on health care in 2020.

The new health care agenda: gridlock, lots of hearings

Nancy Pelosi raises her hand as if she's taking the oath of office
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a post-election press conference Wednesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty

With a Democratic House, a Republican Senate, and President Trump in the White House, get ready for two years of maneuvering but little progress on health care — unless you look beyond Washington.

What to watch: No new health legislation of any significance will pass in this Congress. Democrats in the House will try to come together on a health agenda for the party while their presidential candidates pursue their own platforms. Democratic oversight of the administration’s actions in the House will be unremitting and in the news. And most of the real action affecting people will be in the states.

Health care gives Democrats a modest edge with senior voters

Adapted from a Kaiser Family Foundation column based on a poll conducted Sept. 19–Oct. 2 of 313 registered voters ages 65 and older with a margin of error of ±7 percentage points; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The Democrats' emphasis on health care may give them a modest, but not a decisive, advantage with seniors in Tuesday's elections.

Why it matters: Older voters are the one group that always turns out to vote in midterm elections. They vote at higher rates than younger adults in all elections, but especially in midterms. In 2014, for example, turnout was 55% among the 60-plus population compared to about 16% among 18-29 year-olds.

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