2020 Senate Democrats Shy Away from Medicare for All

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/via AP

Many vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2020 have rejected the polarizing Medicare for All proposals and instead pushed for expanding Obamacare through a public option.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) Doug Jones (D-AL), and Gary Peters (D-MI), all up for reelection in 2020, have shied away from Democrats’ more radical Medicare for All and instead focused on a public health insurance option.

Asked by Politico whether a Medicare for All Democrat could win Michigan, a key battleground state, Sen. Peters said that they would “have to show and be able to explain exactly how that would help folks here in Michigan.

“I think people do want to have the opportunity to keep private insurance,” Peters added. The Michigan Democrat said that he supports a public option and lowering the age requirement for Medicare.

Democrats need to take at least three seats to regain the Senate while protecting battleground seats such as Sens. Peters and Shaheens’. Republican strategists have already tried to tie vulnerable Democrat incumbents to Medicare for All. Recent polling shows that many battleground voters prefer lower healthcare over Medicare for All, which could suggest that backing Medicare for All could jeopardize their chances of taking back the Senate.

A recent poll found that 64 percent of battleground state voters prefer lowering healthcare costs over universal healthcare access.

Sen. Shaheen previously cosponsored Sen. Sanders’ Medicare for All legislation, although the New Hampshire Democrat did not back Sanders’ 2019 version and has moved towards a moderate expansion of the current Obamacare system.

“The best thing to do is build on the Affordable Care Act, address the parts of it that aren’t working,” Shaheen explained. “I think that’s the fastest way we’re going to expand coverage and we can lower costs at the same time.”

A University of New Hampshire poll released Friday found that 43 percent of New Hampshire voters want someone to replace Sen. Shaheen, while 43 percent of New Hampshire voters want her reelected, and 15 percent do not know who they want to be elected in the 2020 Senate race.

Shaheen could face a challenge from former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who could be an early favorite on the GOP primary should he run, according to recent polling.

Republican groups have claimed that Medicare for All will jeopardize Americans’ health insurance coverage and could cause massive disruption in the healthcare industry.

Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said:

For Democrats, all roads lead to Medicare for All and the elimination of the employer-based coverage. Senate Democrats will not be able to escape the socialist agenda being promised by their party’s presidential candidates no matter how hard they try to obfuscate their true objective.

Democrats hope to flip Sen. Martha McSally’s seat in the 2020 elections; Senate Arizona Democrat nominee Mark Kelly has chided proposals such as Medicare for All that would eliminate private health insurance. Kelly, who backs a public option, said:

I think it takes us in the wrong direction, in the opposite direction from where we need to be going.That health insurance isn’t always perfect but there are a lot of those individuals that like the plan that they have. I don’t think we should take that away from them.

In contrast, Stewart Boss, a spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), said that Democrats have attempted to expand healthcare access, while Republicans allegedly tried to take limit healthcare access by repealing Obamacare.

Boss said, “focused on proposals that would expand coverage, improve access to health care and bring down costs,” while the GOP will face questions surround their backing of Obamacare repeal proposals.

Kelly Coogan-Gehr, a director for advocacy at National Nurses United, a top labor union fighting for Medicare for All, said that Democrats up for reelection will face significant pressure on their position on Medicare for All.

“Up and down the ticket you will see them forced to respond to Medicare for All,” says Coogan-Gehr. “People will hold their feet to the fire like never before.”


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