Former health insurance executive praises Sanders, Warren 'Medicare for All' plans

A former health insurance executive offered praise on Tuesday for “Medicare for All” plans put forth by Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Reject National Defense Authorization Act, save Yemen instead MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats ask if they have reason to worry about UK result Buttigieg releases list of campaign bundlers Krystal Ball rips Warren's 'passive-aggressive' swipes at rivals MORE (D-Mass.).

Wendall Potter, who spent 20 years in the health insurance industry, told Hill.TV that both policy ideas would create much needed structural changes to the health care system.

Sanders and Warren have each introduced plans calling for the elimination of private health insurance in favor of a government-run health care plan.

“Both of them are staunch advocates of getting to Medicare for All as soon as possible — we need to do that,” Potter, now a Medicare for All advocate, said referring to the two progressive rivals. 

“We can’t do incremental steps for long periods of time because it just creates more and more cost in the system and leaves more and more people out,” he added.

The health insurance veteran currently runs two advocacy groups, Medicare for All Now and Business for Medicare for All. Both nonprofits seek to help move the nation towards a single-payer national health care system.

During his time as a health insurance executive, Potter said he personally witnessed a number of alarming instances where health insurance companies actively sought to limit access to care. He specifically pointed to a case where a young woman died after being denied a liver transplant even though it was covered by her insurance.

“We have this notion that health insurance companies facilitate access to health care,” he said. “The primary stakeholder for these guys are their investors.”

Sanders and Warren have increasingly looked to differentiate themselves and their own versions Medicare for All.

Warren, in particular, has faced scrutiny for how she plan to pay for her progressive proposal.

In response to this criticism, Warren released a Medicare for All transition plan last month that would gradually transition the country into a single-payer system within her first term as president.

The Massachusetts Democrat said she plans to achieve the transition through introducing two pieces of legislation.

The first bill would be aimed at dramatically increasing the availability of government-run insurance followed by another measure to fully transition to Medicare for All.

Even though the plan was met with some criticism, Potter praised Warren’s overall policy, particularly her reputation for taking on special interest groups in Washington. 

“Warren makes a lot of sense when she says that the first thing that needs to be done is to reduce the influence of special interests,” he told Hill.TV, noting that Sanders also has a similar approach. “One reason it’s so difficult to see meaningful change in Washington is because of the unbelievably powerful special interests, including the one I used to work for — insurance companies.”

These comments come in light of a report by The Washington Post on Monday, which found that lobbyists were heavily involved in writing opinion columns by state lawmakers that were critical of "Medicare for All." 

Montana state Rep. Kathy Kelker (D) and state Sen. Jen Gross (D) reportedly acknowledged that lobbyist and consultant John MacDonald provided proposed language for their respective columns. 

—Tess Bonn