Health care has emerged as a fault line for Democrats in the 2020 presidential campaign, dividing candidates over the viability of “Medicare for All,” a single-payer, government-run program that would cover all U.S. citizens.
Their proposals range from eliminating all private insurers and providing only public coverage, to giving Americans a choice between private insurance and a public option.
Here’s where the seven candidates participating in the PBS Newshour/POLITICO Democratic debate stand on the issue.
Biden has not endorsed Medicare for All, questioning the enthusiasm Democratic voters have for the plan. As Vice President, Biden fought for the passage of the Affordable Care Act. When Republicans attempted to repeal the legislation in 2017, Biden published an op-ed in The Washington Post listing the achievements of the health care law, including improvements in emergency care, addressing the opioid crisis and expanding Medicaid.
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His campaign website says he wants to “defend and build upon” the ACA by offering a public option like Medicare while maintaining private insurance. In states that have rejected Medicaid expansion, Biden also wants to offer free access to a public option for qualifying residents. He proposes increasing the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage.
“Whether you’re covered through your employer, buying your insurance on your own, or going without coverage altogether, the Biden Plan will give you the choice to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare,” his website says.
Buttigieg has called the country’s current system “unjust and insufficient.” The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, endorses a “Medicare for all who want it” plan that he says would provide a public health care option, while allowing people to keep private insurance. The proposal would be open to everyone. In states that have not expanded Medicaid, low-income residents would be automatically enrolled.
Buttigieg’s plan would implement an “all-payer” rate setting that sets one price for any given medical procedure. “We make sure that everybody can afford [public health insurance], but we don’t require you to take it. And partly I think that’s just the right policy, because I think people should be able to choose,” he told NPR.