- Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke backed a public option system in which Americans could keep their private health insurance or participate in Medicare.
- Many of the other Democratic candidates running for president in 2020 are supporting a “Medicare for all” proposal instead.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said he would support a health care system that allows Americans to participate in Medicare or keep their existing employer-based and private health insurance coverage.
Backing the “public option” plan differentiates O’Rourke from a handful of the other Democratic presidential candidates and more liberal base, who have made a point of explicitly backing a “Medicare for All” style program.
“Two extraordinary women with whom I served in Congress, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut have introduced a proposal called ‘Medicare for America’ that ensures that if you have employer-based insurance and if you like it, you keep it. Your doctors, your network, what works for you right now,” O’Rourke said at an event at Penn State University on Tuesday. “If you don’t have insurance or you don’t like the insurance you already have, you enroll in Medicare.”
Put another way, the plan would move everyone who is on Medicaid, gets coverage through the Obamacare exchanges, or does not have insurance onto the government’s Medicare program. Seniors currently on Medicare would continue to receive those benefits.
In addition, Americans of any age would then be allowed to either receive insurance through their employer or opt into the government option.
O’Rourke also said that such a proposal will come at a steep price, but noted he believes it is prudent in the long run.
“It will be measured in the trillions of dollars,” he said. “It is not inexpensive, but as I made the point and the case earlier, it’s a lot less expensive than taking care of people at end of life who have never been treated in the first place.”
During his unsuccessful Senate run in Texas during the 2018 midterm elections, O’Rourke told INSIDER his “number one campaign issue” was “universal health care.”
Other Democrats have coalesced around a ‘Medicare for All’ system
Democratic candidates like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris have back a more comprehensive overhaul of the US health care system.
Medicare for All would include moving the health insurance market into a single-payer system where everyone received their coverage from the government program.
Sanders is one of the most prominent backers of Medicare for All, leading the drafting of a bill in the Senate. While the Vermont senator has long been an advocate for the idea, many of the other presidential candidates have embraced some version of the plan.
Harris came under fire for suggesting that an elimination of private insurance would be necessary in an ideal Medicare for all type system.
“Well, listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require,” she said in a town hall interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “Who of us has not had that situation where you’ve got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don’t know if your insurance company is going to cover this. Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”
Republicans scoffed at the idea of abolishing private health insurance and potential independent presidential candidate and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz panned it as “not American.”
“What’s next? What industry are we going to abolish next? The coffee industry?” he said.
Medicare for All generally receives strong favorability, but support for the health care transformation plummets when poll respondents are told it would require dramatic tax increases, according to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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