Centrist Dem: Maybe we should look at single-payer health care

Centrist Dem: Maybe we should look at single-payer health care
© Greg Nash

Sen Jon. Tester (D-Mont.) on Wednesday said Congress should perhaps take a “solid look” at a single-payer health care system.

Tester's comments during a bipartisan hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee come at a time when more Democrats are getting on board with the idea of government-funded health care.

Tester, a centrist, spoke about how his parents lived without health insurance for most of their life, until they went on Medicare.

“My folks never had health insurance on the farm. They retired in 1970. Never had health insurance ever.”

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“Their first insurance they had was Medicare. There’s a reason for that: In the mid-60s when that happened, it was $400,” said Tester, who is up for reelection in what is likely to be one of the most competitive Senate races in 2018.

“So the question is, there’s been a lot of debate, there’s been amendments offered on single payer for political purposes, but maybe not. Maybe it’s something we should, quite frankly, take a solid look at.”

Tester then asked the hearing's panel of experts how to finance the health care system and how to control the costs.

Tester has been open to various options on decreasing the cost of health care. 

During the Senate ObamaCare repeal debate, Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesOvernight Finance: House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama | GOP leaders to consider Dec. 30 spending bill | Justices skeptical of ban on sports betting | Mulvaney won't fire official who sued him Week ahead: House scrambles on spending bill | What's next on tax reform | Panel to vote on Fed chair nominee This is a tax bill, not tax reform MORE (R-Mont.) offered an amendment to implement a government-funded health care system in an effort to get Democrats on the record on their vote for single-payer. 

The amendment was shot down 0 to 57 with most Democrats voting "present." Tester was one of four Democrats — and Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Trump pushing Maine gov to run for Senate: report Schumer: Franken should resign MORE (I-Maine) — who went on record as voting no.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSchumer: Franken should resign Franken resignation could upend Minnesota races Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign MORE (I-Vt.) championed the idea of “Medicare for All” during his presidential bid last year. He plans to introduce a bill soon, and last week received the endorsement and co-sponsorship of Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats turn on Al Franken Minnesota's largest newspaper calls on Franken to resign Democratic senator predicts Franken will resign Thursday MORE (D-Calif.), who is seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2020.

While Sanders said the idea isn’t a litmus test for Democrats, it’s gained traction recently, with more than half of the House Democratic Caucus co-sponsoring a Medicare for All bill in the House. That’s almost double the number who co-sponsored the measure last congressional session.

The concept still isn’t a unifying one for Democrats, and some prefer to fix ObamaCare instead of fundamentally altering the health care system again.

- This story was updated at 4:34 p.m.