WASHINGTON/ST. GEORGE, S.C.—After launching his 2020 presidential bid last week, John Hickenlooper took a different stance on establishing a “Medicare-for-all” government health insurance program than many of his Democratic competitors.
“I probably would oppose Medicare-for-all just because there are over 150 million people, Americans who have some form of private insurance through their business, and the vast majority of them are happy with that,” the former Colorado governor said on MSNBC. He added he supported reaching universal health insurance coverage by another route.
In contrast, five of the U.S. senators seeking the Democratic presidential nomination—Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders—back a Medicare-for-all bill that would replace the current mix of private and government coverage with a plan provided solely by the government.
The candidates’ positions highlight a divide in the growing field on one of the defining issues in the Democratic Party’s primary battle. While Democrats have long pushed for some type of universal healthcare, the Medicare-for-all proposal has met resistance from more centrist party members concerned about the hefty price tag and disrupting voters’ current coverage.
Medicare also will likely remain an issue for the general election in November 2020, with Democrats already criticizing President Donald Trump’s proposal on Monday to slash $845 billion from the program’s budget over the next decade.
New Reuters/Ipsos polling suggests the details of any Medicare overhaul will matter to voters. While a majority of Democrats generally favor establishing a Medicare-for-all system, their support would drop if that system also raised their taxes or did not deliver the same quality of care, according to the survey, conducted from Feb. 27 to March 4.
Eighty-five percent of Democrats said they strongly or somewhat supported a Medicare-for-all health insurance program, but just 27 percent thought it should completely eliminate private insurance.
Thirty-nine percent of Democrats said they would be somewhat less likely or much less likely to support a Medicare-for-all program if their income taxes increased, and 42 percent said their support would decrease if the program raised the national budget deficit.
More than half of Democrats—64 percent—said they would be less likely to support a Medicare-for-all program if it covered less than their current health insurance plan, and 52 percent said they would be less likely to support it if they had to wait longer to receive non-emergency care, according to the poll.
Thirty-nine percent of Republicans said they supported a Medicare-for-all program to some degree, along with 65 percent of independents.