Democratic presidential candidates are laying out plans for expanding health-care coverage, with Medicare for All overpowering the conversation.
The big picture: Most 2020 Democrats say they buy into the concept of universal health care, except they vary on how to achieve it — and on which plan can be more appealing to achieve nationwide support.
- The Medicare for All bill from Sen. Bernie Sanders has 16 co-sponsors including several 2020 Democrats. Both Sanders' bill and a bill from Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) lay out paths for eliminating private health insurance. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) reintroduced a bill in February that offers a buy-in option.
Medicare For All
This would move the U.S. in the direction of a single-payer system, where the government would serve as the negotiator between patients and providers in health-care transactions.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wants to eliminate private insurance and establish a single source of coverage for prescriptions, medical, vision, dental and mental health care. He introduced the Medicare for All Act of 2019.
- Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is a co-sponsor of Sanders' Medicare for All Act. She has been vague about her strategy for Medicare for All. Warrens' campaign website calls for a "down payment" on Medicare for All, and at a CNN town hall in March she said she would "get everybody at the table" to "figure out how to do Medicare for All," which could include a "temporary role" for private insurance companies.
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is a co-sponsor of Sanders' Medicare for All Act, though she has switched her stance on health care several times, most recently clarifying that she does not support abolishing private health insurance.
- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro supports it, saying at an event with Iowa Democrats that the U.S. should "be the healthiest nation," per the Hill.
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): supports Medicare-for-all, but doesn't want to eliminate private insurance.
- Author Marianne Williamson: Supports a "Medicare-for-all model," according to her campaign website.
Medicare or Medicaid expansion
- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is a co-sponsor of Sen. Debbie Stabenow's Medicare at 50 Act, which allows people ages 50-64 to buy into Medicare. Booker is a co-sponsor on Sanders' bill. He is a co-sponsor on Sanders' 2019 Medicare for All legislation, and
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told CNN she wants to expand Medicaid and Medicare and doesn't want to get rid of private health care right away. Supports Medicare at 50 Act.
- Former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke supports universal health care but is not including Medicare for All in his presidential campaign. He is backing a House Democratic proposal called Medicare for America, which calls for expanding government-run health coverage while keeping employer-sponsored insurance plans, CNN reports.
- Former tech executive Andrew Yang advocates for a single-payer health-care system. He believes that "private health insurance should be allowed to continue to serve those who want to opt out of the public option," per the Washington Post. "However, I expect the public option to be able to out-compete the private options and that most private options would disappear over time."
- Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Ind.) wants to expand Medicare coverage and keep private health insurance plans, resembling former Vice President Joe Biden's plan. Uninsured Americans would automatically be enrolled, while other who are insured can opt-in.
- Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is a co-sponsor of the House version of Sanders' Medicare for All Act. However, he also supports modifying the Affordable Care Act and adding a public option allowing Americans to buy into Medicare without eliminating private health insurance.
- Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-N.Y.) has introduced a "universal" healthcare policy for all New Yorkers, but hasn't made mention of Medicare for All.
- Mayor Wayne Messam (D-Fl.) says Medicare for All is one of the better plans out there, but also supports Medicare for America — which maintains private insurance.
Opposed to Medicare For All
- Former Vice President Joe Biden: Opposes Medicare for All. He supports an optional Medicare buy-in. Biden's plan would create a government option for enrollees in Affordable Care Act exchanges, the Washington Post reports. Employers could also buy into the plan.
- Former representative John Delaney: Says Medicare for All is a "bad policy" and is "political suicide" for Democrats in an op-ed.
- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Col.): Does not support Medicare for All. Bennet introduced Medicare X with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) as an alternative.
- Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mo.): Does not support Medicare for All, and says there are many other options to consider for affordable healthcare.
The bottom line: Medicare for All has been a more divided idea among Americans compared to a buy-in, per Kaiser polling from January. Presidential candidates have been slow to endorse Medicare for All in its entirety as Republicans criticize the party for embracing more socialist ideals.
Go deeper: 5 takeaways from the third Democratic debate