The battle over health care is emerging as the most consequential policy choice facing Democrats in the 2020 presidential contest—and it’s one that could play out over time to Joe Biden’s advantage.
As last week’s debates demonstrated, Democrats now face a stark choice: a nominee who would establish a government-funded, single-payer, national health-care system that bans private health insurance, or one who would maintain the availability of private insurance while seeking to increase coverage by enrolling more Americans in the Medicare system.
The debates produced the most pointed skirmishing on the issue yet, with Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado and former Representative John Delaney of Maryland, who are both lagging in the polls, aggressively making the case against a single-payer system that would ban almost all private insurance. But the encounters also set in motion a dynamic that virtually guarantees greater conflict among higher-ranking candidates over this issue leading into the next debates in late July.
Most candidates across the two nights of debate said they oppose a plan that would eliminate private insurance. But those who support elimination include three of the four candidates who have emerged as the race’s clear top tier in the post-debate polls: Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Kamala Harris of California. The only top-tier candidate who would maintain private insurance is the former vice president.