Becerra says he wants to ‘build on’ ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All
Health and Human Services secretary nominee Xavier Becerra pointed to President Biden’s opposition to “Medicare for All” on Wednesday when pressed on his own support for the idea, saying he would follow the lead of the White House.
Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked Becerra at his confirmation hearing about past support for Medicare for All, asking what “assurances” he can give to Americans with private coverage that “that they will not lose their coverage in the future to some sort of Medicare for All approach.”
“What I will tell you is I’m here at the pleasure of the president of the United States,” Becerra responded. “He’s made it very clear where he is. He wants to build on the Affordable Care Act. That will be my mission, to achieve the goals that President Biden put forward, to build on the Affordable Care Act.”
“I appreciate hearing that,” Crapo said in response.
Biden made clear during the Democratic primary that he did not support the Medicare for All proposals put forward by more progressive candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Biden instead called for building on ObamaCare by adding an optional government-run plan, rather than eliminating private insurance so the government-run plan is the only option.
Becerra has long been a supporter of Medicare for All, a point that Republicans are using as one of an array of attacks on his nomination.
“I’ve been a supporter of Medicare for All for the 24 years that I was in Congress,” Becerra told Fox News in a 2017 interview.
With Biden’s opposition to the progressive proposal and a razor thin Democratic majority in the Senate, there is no chance of Medicare for All passing anytime soon. Becerra, however, could grant waivers to states to make it easier for them to try to set up state-based single-payer programs if he’s confirmed as Health secretary.
It’s unclear how hard Biden will push for his toned-down, public option proposal. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill put forward by Biden and congressional Democrats increases ObamaCare subsidies to help people buy private insurance, but does not include any kind of public option. Still, future packages could include that proposal.