Elizabeth Warren said Saturday that a big change in the U.S. health-care system would make a lot of people "uneasy," emphasizing she wouldn't immediately push a full Medicare for All plan until people have three years to try it.
At a town hall in Manchester, Iowa, one voter asked Warren why her Medicare for All plan would take three years to implement rather than putting it in place right away. She said the phase-in would give her administration enough time to secure the congressional votes she would need to enact it and give people time to try it out.
"We need to get the votes," the Massachusetts Democrat said. "And we need to give people some experience with it. Health care is deeply personal and people are very uneasy, I think, about big changes in health care, and I understand that."
Medicare for All would eliminate private health insurance in favor of a government-run health system. The campaign proposals are based on a bill written by rival presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who enthusiastically embraces it despite his estimated $30 trillion price tag. He argues the tax increases to pay for the health plan would be offset by eliminating co-pays and deductibles.
Warren says she would work to enact it by the third year of her presidency, but has said she prefers to offer it, at first, as an option to cover children and families who make $50,000 a year or less, before pushing the full program.
The nation -- and Democratic primary voters -- are split on Medicare for All, and she has tempered her rhetoric over the course of the campaign. Her poll numbers have dipped.
"It's about how we give people experience with changes in health care. I think it's powerfully important that people have a chance to experience it," Warren said. "I think it's important that we have a path to make health care work for everyone and that's what I'm committed to."
Warren has called health care "a basic human right." Her Medicare for All plan would cost $20.5 trillion over 10 years.
She has increasingly stressed the word "choice" and says the three-year implementation period would let Americans try out Medicare for All.
"We can offer full health-care coverage to the rest of America for a modest cost," she said. "We could let people across this country try, you're not forced into it if you don't want to, but try it."
To defend her transition proposal and the need for a trial period, Warren referred to the trajectory of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, noting how long it took to go into effect and for people to get used to it.
"We weren't having big national conversations about preexisting conditions until people had a chance to experience it," Warren said. "And once they understood and really had a chance to feel how insurance changes when you can't be canceled out because of preexisting conditions, then all of a sudden, we see a whole lot more people who become allies of the Affordable Care Act."
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