It’s looking increasingly likely that supporting single-payer health care will be the standard for Democratic lawmakers who want to be considered serious 2020 candidates, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) announced Thursday that she will co-sponsor Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Medicare for All bill.
“There is something fundamentally wrong when one of the richest and most powerful countries on the planet can’t make sure that a person can afford to see a doctor when they’re sick. This isn’t any way to live,” Warren said in an email to supporters Thursday morning announcing her decision.
Warren’s support for the bill is unsurprising, as the progressive senator has expressed support for single-payer health care in the past. In June, she told the Wall Street Journal that Democrats running in 2018 and 2020 should run on a single-payer platform.
“I believe it’s time to take a step back and ask: what is the best way to deliver high quality, low cost health care to all Americans?” Warren’s Thursday announcement said. “Everything should be on the table—and that’s why I’m co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill that will be introduced later this month.”
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The Massachusetts senator and progressive darling is the second high-profile senator in as many weeks to announce she will co-sponsor the legislation, after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her support last Wednesday.
“It’s so much better people have meaningful access to affordable health care at every stage from birth on because the alternative [is] we as taxpayers otherwise are paying huge amounts for money for them to get their health care in an emergency room,” Harris said when she announced her intention to co-sponsor the bill at a town hall last week. “It’s not only about what’s morally and ethically right, it also just makes sense from a fiscal standpoint or a return on investment for taxpayers.”
Warren and Harris have both been floated as potential presidential candidates in 2020. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), another potential candidate, has also expressed support for single-payer, though she has not announced any plans to sponsor legislation.
“Health care should be a right, it should never be a privilege. We should have Medicare for all in this country,” Gillibrand said on CNN in June.
Sanders may also mount another presidential run. In 2016, Sanders challenged former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the left and ran on a single-payer platform, and the swell of grassroots support Sanders received during the primaries helped opened the door for Warren and others to throw their weight behind a Medicare for All bill.
Warren’s support makes it increasingly clear that support for single-payer will be a litmus test for 2020 candidates on some level, a marked change from the 2016 primary. While Sanders support for Medicare for All was a deviation from the norm during the 2016 election, the stars of the party are now leading the way for Democrats to run on a single-payer platform.
Any 2020 candidate who does not support single payer will have to answer to the trio of popular senators who have thrown their support behind Medicare for All.
Warren and Harris’ announcements come in the wake of several failed attempts by Republicans in Congress to repeal and potentially replace the Affordable Care Act, and Sanders has said he plans to introduce the legislation in the Senate next week, though few details about the plan have been released.
Though Democratic lawmakers are increasingly throwing their support behind universal health care, the policy details about how they plan to make this transition have so far been relatively thin. One central question for all single-payer plans, for instance, is how they will handle abortion coverage, as the Hyde Amendment currently makes it illegal for federal funding to fund abortions.