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

Bernie SandersBernie SandersChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need Biden and Harris seen as more moderate than Trump and Pence: poll 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.


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 BookerOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Harris make first public appearance as running mates Booker hits back at Trump tweet, mocks misspelling of name 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.


Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Democrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandIn the next relief package Congress must fund universal COVID testing Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Markey riffs on JFK quote in new ad touting progressive bona fides Howard Kurtz: Kamala Harris 'getting walk on water coverage' by media after VP pick 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 BennetKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 MORE (D-Colo.), called Medicare-X, which would expand access to ObamaCare and let anyone buy a Medicare plan.

Meanwhile, Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharElection security advocates see strong ally in Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup 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 ClintonUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Gloria Steinem: Selection of Kamala Harris recognizes that 'black women ... are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party' 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 DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight 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 PelosiSusan Collins asks postmaster general to address delays of 'critically needed mail' Trump says he'd sign bill funding USPS but won't seek changes to help mail voting On The Money: Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief agreement | Weekly jobless claims fall below 1 million for first time since March | Trump says no Post Office funding means Democrats 'can't have universal mail-in voting' 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.”