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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 ManchinHouse Democrats eye passing DC statehood bill for second time Biden dispatches Cabinet members to sell infrastructure plan On The Money: Treasury creates hub to fight climate change | Manchin throws support behind union-backed PRO Act | Consumer bureau rolls out rule to bolster CDC eviction ban 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 SandersOn The Money: Yellen touts 'whole-of-economy' plan to fight climate change | Senate GOP adopts symbolic earmark ban, digs in on debt limit GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House Dems to unveil drug pricing measure ahead of Biden package 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 WarrenLawmakers react to guilty verdict in Chauvin murder trial: 'Our work is far from done' World passes 3 million coronavirus deaths Poll: 56 percent say wealth tax is part of solution to inequality MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSenate confirms Gupta nomination in tight vote Earth Day 2021: New directions for US climate policy rhetoric Biden says Chauvin verdict is step forward in fight against racial injustice 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."