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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 ManchinJoe ManchinIs the Constitution in the way of DC statehood? Biden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Joe Manchin is wrong — D.C. statehood is constitutional 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 SandersOvernight Health Care: CDC approves Pfizer vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 | House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill | Panel blasts COVID-19 response Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' House moderates signal concerns with Pelosi drug pricing bill 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 WarrenWarren says Republican party 'eating itself and it is discovering that the meal is poisonous' Briahna Joy Gray: Warren not endorsing Sanders in 2020 was 'really frustrating' McConnell hits Democratic critics of Israel MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisMcConnell: 'Good chance' of deal with Biden on infrastructure Democrat Nikki Fried teases possible challenge to DeSantis Pavlich: The border crisis Biden said we could afford 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."