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Democrats Step Back from Medicare for All

Michael Rainey, Yuval Rosenberg

Did you know there's a Democratic presidential debate happening tonight? No, really.

In a preview, Steve Peoples of the Associated Press notes that it's not clear why Democratic candidates are debating this week: "It’s just six days before Christmas, Congress is making history on multiple fronts in Washington and primary voters have shown decreasing interest in each of the first five rounds," he writes. "That’s not to mention that most of the candidates — those in the top tier, at least — would happily skip this end-of-year clash."

That's all fair, but there are some issues for the Democratic presidential candidates to debate. Impeachment, obviously. But the ground may be shifting in the health care debate as well, and Peoples suggests that Medicare for All has lost its glow for some of the candidates:

“It was a litmus issue for ambitious Democrats a year ago. But now, only one of the seven Democrats on the debate stage is promising to fight for Medicare for All immediately after taking office. That would be the bill’s author, Bernie Sanders, who is nothing if not consistent. The other progressive firebrand onstage, Elizabeth Warren, has settled on a plan to transition to Medicare for All by the end of her first term, while none of the other candidates would go even that far. Most support a hybrid system that would give consumers the choice to join a government-run system or keep the private insurance they have. No issue has symbolized the fight for the soul of the Democratic Party in 2020 more than this one. And yet, for now, the centrists appear to be winning.”

A new survey from The New York Times may help explain why. The survey of 4,093 adults taken earlier this month finds that while most Democrats approve of the general idea of Medicare for All, opinions are more divided once details of the plan are brought into play. Only a quarter of Democrats say they support Sanders’ approach, “in which all Americans get their insurance from a single government plan.” The far more popular approach is the one taken by Pete Buttigieg and other centrists, in which the government would offer “Medicare for all who want it” while allowing private insurance to remain in place – an option chosen by 58% of survey respondents.

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