WASHINGTON – 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are backing away from their “once-fervent embrace of Medicare-for-all,” a headline from The Washington Post reads.

“What I think has happened in the Democratic primary is people recognize that some of the concerns about single-payer are not coming from special interests but the public,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former Hillary Clinton aide.  According to Business Insider, Democratic candidates who had previously endorsed Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) Medicare for all plan have “begun tempering their endorsement for the sweeping Sanders plan, acknowledging that eliminating private health insurance remains unpopular with voters, according to recent polling.”

The Post also confirmed this sentiment, reporting that “[p]olls show why they’re doing this.  On the surface, the idea sounds as if it would appeal to voters.”  But when voters are made aware of the many negative consequences of such a system, including the elimination of private insurance and need for higher taxes, support drops.  The Post notes:

But notice how support declines when people are told that such a program would require getting rid of private insurance … That question didn’t even dig into the potentially politically troublesome detail of how such a plan would be implemented.  Providing health care for all Americans would cost billions of dollars, so taxes on the middle class would go up.  A January Kaiser Health News poll shows a majority of Americans, 60 percent, flat-out opposed Medicare-for-all if that were the case … At the past two presidential debates, Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only candidate to clearly and explicitly acknowledge that the plan would require raising taxes …The other candidates seem to find it politically untenable to simply say, yes, voters’ taxes would go up, and then explain why.

The Washington Post previously reported that “Democrats in swing districts are increasingly worried that the outspoken embrace of Medicare-for-all by Bernie Sanders and other top Democratic presidential hopefuls could hurt their chances of keeping the House in 2020,” while The New York Times reports that some Democratic governors are “anxious” and “alarmed that their party’s presidential candidates are embracing policies they see as unrealistic and politically risky.  And they are especially concerned about proposals that would eliminate private health insurance.” The Washington Post also noted recently that by “veer[ing] left,” Democratic presidential hopefuls are “leaving behind [the party’s] successful midterm strategy.”

Echoing these assertions, Former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and former Democratic Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman recently joined other prominent Democrats – including former President Barack Obama and current Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin – who have warned against the dangers of Medicare for all. VICE News reports that “Reid was blunt when asked if he thought supporting Medicare for All would be problematic in the 2020 general election.  ‘Of course it would be,’ he said.  ‘How are you going to get it passed?’”  Lieberman added that while “Medicare-for-all sounds good as a slogan – it will cost an enormous amount of money.  Bernie Sanders himself said everybody’s taxes, including the middle class, will go up … Don’t do something so big that it will turn against them next year.”

And while some continue to promote the public option as a more “moderate” alternative to Medicare for all, 2020 contenders and others readily acknowledge such an approach would lead to the same one-size-fits-all government-run system, and the first edition of Voter Vitals – a new quarterly tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states – finds that “a clear majority of voters nationwide are primed to reject new government-run systems that will cost voters more to expand coverage like Medicare for All, the public option, and Medicare buy-in.  Most voters want candidates to lower costs, build on what’s working and fix what’s broken – not start over.”  This tracks closely with recent polling conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which finds that the majority of Americans, including Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, want our elected officials to build and improve upon our current system.

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