The entrance last week of Beto O’Rourke into the 2020 race for the White House may help shape the debate of how best to expand Medicare to Americans under the age of 65 or at least improve existing health benefits on the road to more coverage.
So far, O’Rourke’s rivals for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination are backing everything from a single payer approach to “Medicare for All” to efforts that allow Americans under the age of 65 to buy into Medicare coverage.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts were among 17 Senators whointroduced the Medicare for All Act of 2017. And O’Rourke a year ago saidhe would support Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal.
With O’Rourke grabbing the spotlight last week with the launch of his campaign in Iowa, he was pressed by veteran Radio Iowa reporter O. Kay Henderson “how quickly” the 46-year-old former Texas Congressman is “going to promise voters” they will get to Medicare for All.
In his response, O’Rourke indicated it’s going to take time and require bipartisan support to expand Medicare. In the meantime, O’Rourke indicated his presidency would be focused on building on the existing healthcare system and expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to the remaining 14 holdout states.
“I think we have to begin with a goal that has to be separate from any labels and that goal has to be that every single one of us can see a doctor, take our child to a therapist, afford our prescriptions to be well enough to live to our full potential,” O’Rourke said in a two-minute portion of the Radio Iowa interview discussing Medicare-for-All.
O’Rourke then rattled off four key priorities on the road to guaranteeing coverage to as many people as possible. Here’s what he told Radio Iowa:
- “The quickest way to get there in my mind is to ensure that we protect the safeguards that we already have.”
- “Expansion of Medicaid in those states that haven’t done it.”
- “Allow people to buy in to Medicare who are not already covered by employer insurance.”
- “Ensure that there is an effective guarantee, so that even if you have insurance but are unable to afford the co-pay . . . that we guarantee you that you are going to get the care, or the medication . . . that you need.”
But O’Rourke has increasingly cautioned that there will need to be common ground. “No one person and perhaps no one party can force the decision on this,” O’Rourke said. ”This has to be something that America comes together on.”