Elizabeth Warren rolls out “transition” version of “Medicare for All”

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., listens to a question during the question and answer part of her campaign event Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019, at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/ Cheryl Senter)

Elizabeth Warren on Friday pledged to “fight to pass legislation that would complete the transition to full Medicare for All” by her third year in office. 

“Every serious proposal for ‘Medicare for All’ contemplates a significant transition period,” Warren wrote in a first-term transition plan, followed by a series of measures she said she would take in her first 100 days of office to pave the path toward eventual health care for all Americans.

The Massachusetts senator’s plan says that the first bill Warren would pass is a “comprehensive set of anti-corruption reforms which include ending lobbying as we know it and knocking back the influence of Big Pharma and insurance companies.” 

It would be followed by a lighter version of Medicare for All, which would continue to allow Americans to stay on private health insurance for the time being. Warren refers to that bill as “fast-track budget reconciliation legislation,” which she wrote would expand public health care to cover all children and for families at less than twice the federal poverty level. The use of reconciliation means that it would need only a simple majority of senators to pass, rather than the usual supermajority of 60.

Warren says she’ll improve Medicare for everyone over 50 years of age and afford every American “the choice to enter an improved Medicare program.”

The transition plan is likely to be regarded as something of a middle ground between plans proposed by Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. Sanders wrote the Medicare for All bill, and Warren is fond of saying on the trail that she is “with Bernie on Medicare for All.” 

The South Bend mayor has adopted a centrist version he calls “Medicare for All Who Want It.” While Warren says that Sanders’ bill already includes the potential for a small private market to cover the special needs of some unions, she, too, has opened the door allowing some private market coverage. She says she would “allow private employer coverage that reflects the outcome of a collective bargaining agreement to be grandfathered into the new system.”

But Buttigieg communications adviser Lis Smith fired back at comparisons between his plan and Warren’s in a statement. 

“Despite adopting Pete’s language of ‘choice,’ her plan is still a ‘my way or the highway’ approach that would eradicate choice for millions of Americans,” Smith said. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, argued that Warren’s progressive plans could lose Democrats the general election. “We’re not going to beat Donald Trump next year with double talk on health care, and we’re not going to beat him with a plan that hikes taxes on the middle-class, kicks Americans off their private insurance, and kills millions of jobs,” Bedingfield said in a statement.

Still, Warren’s plan remains closest in essence to the plan favored by the party’s most progressive members and introduced by Sanders. The Vermont senator, for his part, didn’t name Warren, but took a thinly veiled swing at her with a tweet quoting a nurses association leader’s assertion that any watering down of his plan is a mistake. 

“We know that there are ample opportunities for politicians to compromise on Medicare for All, and we know, having worked with Senator Sanders before, that he won’t compromise when people’s health is at stake,” the tweet said, quoting National Nurses United Co-President Debora Burger, along with a video of her and other NNU executives talking about Sanders’ plan.

Aaron Navarro and Cara Korte contributed to this report

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