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Senate Democrats skeptical of Warren's 'Medicare for All' push

Mary Ellen McIntire, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren's colleagues aren't exactly jumping to voice support for her plan to finance "Medicare for All."

The hesitation from rank-and-file Democrats across the political spectrum on backing the Massachusetts Democrat's plan shows how fraught the issue is within the party – and how challenging it would be for a Democratic White House to shepherd a plan through Congress.

Just 14 senators, including Warren, have co-sponsored Medicare for All legislation from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, another White House hopeful, while half of House Democrats back a similar measure. The bills do not include provisions to finance the system, but Warren's proposal, which she spelled out under pressure from more moderate presidential candidates, did not appear to win over additional senators.

"Assuming Democrats control the Senate, I think that we would look to build on the Affordable Care Act so you would not have to deal with the financing that Sen. Warren's proposed," said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Maryland, referring to the 2010 health care law. Cardin has not signed on to the Sanders legislation.

"There are different ways to get at this issue," said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, adding that he did not think eliminating private insurance under a single-payer plan would be the right approach.

Speaking to reporters in Iowa on Friday, Warren said she was confident Medicare for All could earn support in Congress.


"Yes, I believe in democracy. I believe that when we dream big and fight hard, we win," she said.

History shows that Warren or Sanders would likely need new members of Congress who campaigned on Medicare for All to be elected alongside them for the best shot of getting a single-payer policy through Congress, said Robert Blendon, a Harvard University professor of public health and health politics.

"If a House member didn't run on it and they're in some sort of mixed district, they're not going to be convinced by a president saying, 'I won, so therefore you have to do it,'" Blendon said.

Medicare for All has been a controversial topic within the party since after the 2016 election, when it became somewhat of a litmus test among progressives. Many Democratic lawmakers say they would prefer to build on the 2010 law, President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy.


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