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Today's word count is 881, or a 3-minute read.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Staff
Bernie Sanders has risen to the top of the Democrats' 2020 pack on the appeal of his far-left idealism and promises of a "revolution" — but he'll have a hard time turning revolution into reality if he gets the chance, Axios' David Nather reports.
Between the lines: Just because Sanders has surged doesn't mean the politics of Medicare for All have changed, and the politics have always rendered it very unlikely to become law.
The big picture: Even with the expanding power of the presidency, Sanders would need Congress to approve the most ambitious ideas he's known for — including Medicare for All — and that's unlikely to happen even under the strongest elections scenarios for House and Senate Democrats in November.
Medicare for All is divisive even among Democrats, the debates have shown. So it's hard to see its path to passage in the Senate.
It's not just Medicare for All. Sanders wants the federal government to pay the $81 billion in unpaid medical debt reported to credit agencies.
Speaking of Medicare for All ... Health care was voters' top issue in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and it benefited Sanders as well as his more moderate rivals, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman writes in today's column.
The big picture: Sanders has emerged as a national front-runner thanks in part to a base that’s deeply committed to his Medicare for All plan, even as polling data indicate that more moderate ideas like a public option have a broader base of support.
By the numbers: 37% of voters in the New Hampshire exit poll said health care was their top issue, placing it ahead of climate change, income inequality or foreign policy. Results were similar in Iowa entrance polls.
"Single-payer or bust" voters overwhelmingly supported Sanders, while the "public option or bust" group was split among Pete Buttigieg (35%), Amy Klobuchar (34%) and Joe Biden (12%).
Drew's thought bubble: The hardcore single-payer fans are a small group, even among Democrats.
Yes, but: Even among those Democratic voters in New Hampshire who said health care was the most important issue, more said it's very important to have a candidate who can beat President Trump (89%) than one who has the best policy ideas (60%).
Employers, workers and families continued to spend a lot more on health care in 2018, but that wasn't because people used more services, according to the latest annual spending report from the Health Care Cost Institute, which analyzes commercial health insurance claims.
By the numbers: Annual per-person spending among the commercially insured, after accounting for inflation and drug rebates that help reduce premiums, grew by an average of 3.8% between 2014 and 2018, according to HCCI.
The intrigue: Two small pieces of data stick out within the report.
Scientists and doctors are exploring whether existing treatments for HIV, Ebola and malaria could combat the novel coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Driving the news: The antiviral remdesivir protected monkeys from MERS, another coronavirus, both before and after exposure, the National Institute of Health announced Thursday.
The medication, made by Gilead, has been used in experiments to fight Ebola, and has also been used to keep SARS from replicating in animals, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.
Why it matters: An anti-viral or immunotherapy that's already been proven safe could be a faster solution to slowing down infections. But their effectiveness against the coronavirus still has to be tested.
Drugmaker Eisai is withdrawing its weight-loss pill Belviq after the FDA found an increased risk of cancer among people who took the drug, Bob writes.
Between the lines: Belviq never really caught on after its approval in 2012 because it was barely better than a placebo, STAT notes. Anyone who prescribes or takes Belviq should dump it out now.