Medicare for all: One buzzword, different interpretations

Democrat presidential candidates and their Medicare for all proposals

Medicare for all is no longer an absurd campaign slogan. In fact, many mainstream media outlets are calling it a “2020 litmus test for Democrats.” This time, Bernie Sanders has company. Several high profile Democrats who announced their candidacy for the 2020 presidential race have now joined the bandwagon.

In fact, many mainstream media outlets are calling it a “2020 litmus test for Democrats.”

But the million-dollar question is: what exactly is “Medicare for all” —to our presidential candidates?

Democratic 2020 candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren(D-MA), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are courting “Medicare for all” promises, but their interpretations of this buzzword are starkly different from each other.

Under the bill proposed by Bernie Sanders in 2017, Medicare for all means everyone living in America will be covered under a single insurance plan, with government in charge. If the bill is ratified, no one will be uninsured or underinsured. This will significantly cut down one of the biggest drivers in health care cost: an administrative expenditure. The U.S spends 25% of total hospital care on administration. Yes, there will be no more expensive deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance. On the flip side, it might be financially taxing. However, if we continue with the current trend, the U.S healthcare spending is projected to reach $45 trillion.

Sanders’ bill was co-sponsored by Warren, Booker, Harris, and Gillibrand. That does not necessarily mean it’s the only path they are thinking of.

Kamala Harris initially told a CNN town hall that she wants to eliminate private insurance to move entirely towards Medicare for all. Her statement drew ire from Republicans and those antagonists to the said proposal. A presidential candidate, Howard Schultz and his fellow billionaire, Michael Bloomberg (who is a potential presidential candidate as well) voiced their disapproval, citing it as fiscally burdensome. Republicans alerted that single-payer would mean people will not be able to keep their private plans of their choosing.

Harris’s advisor, Ian Sam later clarified to CNN and said, “She has co-sponsored other pieces of legislation that she sees as a path to getting us there, but this is the plan she is running on.”

Warren has introduced her bill called The Consumer Health Insurance Protection Act. Sanders, Harris, and Gillibrand are among her co-sponsors. Her bill proposes to amend the existing Affordable Care Act in terms of limiting insurance premiums, cap out-of-pocket prescription drug costs, and set limits on the profit insurance companies make.

Gillibrand and Booker are still co-sponsors to Sander’s bill and haven’t detailed anything specific. On Colbert’s talk show, Gillibrand said, “I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege.” There are not many details about how her sentiments will materialize.

A s for Booker, a reporter asked if he would “do away with private health care.” To which he said, “Even countries that have vast access to publicly offered health care still have private health care.” His comment drew some skepticism about his commitment to Medicare for all.

By now, it’s quite apparent that while “Medicare for all” is gaining political traction among Democrats, it’s quite another ball game to realize Sander’s vision; will it be a path to Medicare for all that triumphs or the destination itself from the get-go?

Regardless, the debate continues whether to incrementally reform or radically change it — putting an end to yet another patchwork on the healthcare system.

Policy Analyst — Health Informatics. Opinions are mine, not employer’s.

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