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

Bernie SandersBernie SandersFox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel Feehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan 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 BookerDe Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con' Sanders pledges to only nominate Supreme Court justices that support Roe v. Wade From dive bars to steakhouses: How Iowa caucus staffers blow off steam 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 HarrisFeehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandO'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall Gillibrand 'very unhappy' with 'Game of Thrones' finale Gillibrand endorses DC statehood: Democracy doesn't mean 'for some of us' MORE (D-N.Y.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFeehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall 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 BennetOvernight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan CNN announces four more town halls featuring 2020 Dems Bennet latest 2020 candidate to unveil climate plan MORE (D-Colo.), called Medicare-X, which would expand access to ObamaCare and let anyone buy a Medicare plan.

Meanwhile, Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharFox's Brit Hume fires back at Trump's criticism of the channel Overnight Energy: Warren wants Dems to hold climate-focused debate | Klobuchar joins candidates rejecting fossil fuel money | 2020 contender Bennet offers climate plan O'Rourke says he would 'absolutely' do Fox News town hall 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 ClintonWhat the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election Steve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push Feehery: A whole new season of 'Game of Thrones' 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 Kevin DelaneyMoulton rolls out plan to promote national service among young Americans From dive bars to steakhouses: How Iowa caucus staffers blow off steam Winter is here: How 'Game of Thrones' took over American politics 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 Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump jokingly suggests serving as many as five terms GOP senator warns Trump, Mulvaney against 'draconian' budget cuts Press: Justin Amash breaks ranks with party 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.”