Sanders sets bar for 2020 Dems with 'Medicare for all' rollout

Bernie SandersBernie SandersTop Democratic super PACs team up to boost Biden Poll: Biden leads Sanders by 22 points GE employees urge company to use laid-off workers to make ventilators MORE — considered the front-runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination — is setting a high bar for other candidates with his “Medicare for all” plan.

Sanders has made his plan to move the U.S. to a single-payer, government-run health care system a center point of his second presidential campaign, with no room for compromise or other proposals that would take incremental steps toward universal coverage.

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And while four out of the five Senate Democrats running for president backed the new version of the plan that Sanders introduced Wednesday, most of them are also open to other “pathways” to making sure everyone is insured — a concept called “universal coverage.”

“We all share a goal of wanting to have a nation where everyone has access to health care, affordable, quality health care,” Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Lawmakers, labor leaders ramp up calls to use Defense Production Act Democratic senators call on FDA to drop restrictions on blood donations from men who have sex with men MORE (D-N.J.), a 2020 contender who backs Sanders’s plan, said in a radio interview Wednesday.

“But anybody who says those words — ‘Medicare for all’ — who’s running for president, the next thing out of their mouth should be talking to people about, in a split Congress, what are you going to actually do in your first year to make health care more accessible and affordable?”

Booker said a Medicare for all system is ideal but that he also supports “pragmatic” proposals that would build off the current system by keeping ObamaCare and private, employer-sponsored insurance while expanding Medicare on a much smaller scale.

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Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll Biden could be picking the next president: VP choice more important than ever With VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandLawmakers already planning more coronavirus stimulus after T package Progressive advocates propose T 'green stimulus' plan Juan Williams: Biden's promises on women are a big deal MORE (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocratic senators ask Pompeo to provide coronavirus aid to Palestinian territories Seth Meyers returning to late-night TV with 'hybrid episodes' Biden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll MORE (D-Mass.), all vying for the Democratic nomination as well, also support Sanders’s plan, which has 14 co-sponsors in all. But they have likewise come out in support of what they say are other pathways to universal coverage. Of Sanders’s 2020 opponents, Gillibrand was the only one to attend the rollout Wednesday.

All but Warren have signed on to a bill introduced earlier this year that would let anyone between the ages of 50 and 64 buy Medicare plans.

And Harris and Booker both support a proposal by potential 2020 contender Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus Hillicon Valley: Facebook launches portal for coronavirus information | EU sees spike in Russian misinformation on outbreak | Senate Dem bill would encourage mail-in voting | Lawmakers question safety of Google virus website We need a massive economic response to counter the threat of the coronavirus MORE (D-Colo.), called Medicare-X, which would expand access to ObamaCare and let anyone buy a Medicare plan.

Meanwhile, Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: FCC chief proposes 0M telehealth program | Twitter takes down posts promoting anti-malaria drugs for coronavirus| Whole Foods workers plan Tuesday strike Trump says election proposals in coronavirus stimulus bill would hurt Republican chances Biden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll MORE (D-Minn.) is the only senator running for president who doesn’t support Medicare for all, instead favoring proposals that would allow people to buy into Medicare while keeping the structure of private insurance.

Sanders himself only supports his plan, which would overhaul the entire U.S. health care system and transform  Medicare into a single-payer program run by the government, replacing private health insurance and eliminating other government plans like Medicaid.

“The American people are increasingly clear: They want a health care system which guarantees health care to all Americans as a right,” Sanders said Wednesday at an event announcing the bill.

In an interview last month, Sanders rejected “incremental” approaches to health care outside of his own plan, which would phase in over a period of four years.

“The incremental reform that I support is phasing in Medicare for all,” he said on MSNBC in March.

It’s an opportunity for Sanders, who popularized Medicare for all in his 2016 presidential campaign against eventual Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJuan Williams: Mueller, one year on Biden tops Trump by 9 points in Fox News poll With VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world MORE, to set himself apart from a larger field of candidates, many of whom have positioned themselves on the left.

But Sanders isn’t always to the left of other Democratic candidates for president.

He’s disagreed with Warren and Harris on paying reparations to the descendants of slaves. And he doesn’t agree with calls from progressive grass-roots groups to add more seats to the Supreme Court or to eliminate the Senate filibuster.

But on the issue of health care, several Democratic candidates have not been ready to embrace Medicare for all, shuddering at the idea of eliminating private insurance, which covers 67 percent of Americans with health insurance plans. Some also worry about how much a plan that covers everyone in the U.S. would cost, with some estimates putting it as high as $32 trillion over 10 years.

“Eliminating private health plans will decrease access and quality in health care and doom any chance of creating a universal health care system, yet it remains the type of talking point that may sound good but is bad policy,” said John DelaneyJohn DelaneyJohn Delaney endorses Biden Nevada caucuses open with a few hiccups Lobbying world MORE, a former Democratic representative from Maryland who is running for president.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who launched his campaign last month, supports the Medicare for America Act, which would keep employer-sponsored insurance but replace other federal health programs including ObamaCare.

Democratic leaders in Congress, meanwhile, think the focus for now should stay on protecting and strengthening ObamaCare, as the Trump administration seeks to dismantle it in court.

“We all share the common goal of affordable, quality health care coverage for all,” House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMeadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House Pelosi floats undoing SALT deduction cap in next coronavirus bill Overnight Health Care: More states order residents to stay at home | Trump looks to sell public on coronavirus response | Judges block Ohio, Texas abortion bans | Dems eye infrastructure in next relief bill MORE (D-Calif.) said Tuesday at the American Hospital Association conference in Washington.

“There are many paths to this goal. You’ve heard of some of them. Medicare for all. Single-payer. Whatever it is. All that creative tension is valuable as we go forward. We can’t go down any path unless we strengthen the Affordable Care Act.”