Manchin on 'Medicare for All': 'We can't even pay for Medicare for some'

Manchin on 'Medicare for All': 'We can't even pay for Medicare for some'
© Greg Nash

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocrats Manchin, Jones signal they're undecided on Trump removal vote Schiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line Schiff closes Dems' impeachment arguments with emotional appeal to remove Trump MORE (D-W.Va.) on Wednesday embraced the GOP’s line of attack on “Medicare for All” proposals, arguing that the government can’t even pay for the program it has now. 

“We can’t even pay for Medicare for some and to go Medicare for All, we can’t take care of those who are depending on it right now,” Manchin said at The Hill’s Future of Healthcare Summit. 

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“That's an inspirational novel idea,” Manchin said of the proposal that is sponsored by Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters MORE (I-Vt.), who is running for president. 

Manchin’s comments come on the day of the Democratic Party’s first presidential debate, where Medicare for All is expected to be a major talking point.

Most of Manchin’s Senate colleagues who are running for president, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (D-Calif.), back Medicare for All. 

But Manchin, who calls himself a conservative Democrat, said the U.S. moving to a single-payer system run by the government would not align with a capitalist society. 

“We’re kind of conditioned to want what you want, when you want it. If you’re willing to pay for it, make that sacrifice, then by God, in a capitalist society, you should be able to buy it,” Manchin said, mentioning the generous health care plans unions negotiate for workers. “And we’re going to take that away?” 

Republicans’ main criticisms of Medicare for All is that it would essentially eliminate private health insurance, like plans offered by employers. They also argue it would hurt seniors, calling it “Medicare for none.” 

But supporters of single-payer argue insurance companies are motivated by profits and not patients, and that seniors would receive better care and improved benefits through Medicare for All.

Asked by The Hill’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons whose health care plan he most supports among Democrats running for president, Manchin deflected.

 “I think all of them realize that what we have with ACA, it needs to be fixed,” Manchin said, referring to the Affordable Care Act. 

“Now, they're talking in their grand plan of what they want to do. But then it has to come to fiscal responsibilities. How do you do it? Because those are major changes. It's easier to fix what we have now.”

Manchin, who was first elected to the Senate in 2010, has said he is mulling a run for governor of West Virginia. 

He previously served in that role from 2005 to 2010. Asked by Clemons which job he prefers — governor or senator — Manchin replied: "Governor. It's the best job in the world."