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Democrats are shifting to offense on health care, emboldened by successes in defending the Affordable Care Act. They say their ultimate goal is a government guarantee of affordable coverage for all.
With Republicans unable to agree on a vision for health care, Democrats are debating ideas that range from single-payer, government-run care for all, to new insurance options anchored in popular programs like Medicare or Medicaid. There’s also widespread support for authorizing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, an idea once advocated by candidate Donald Trump, which has languished since he was elected president.
Democrats are hoping to winnow down the options during the 2018 campaign season, providing clarity for their 2020 presidential candidate. In polls, health care remains a top priority for the public, particularly for Democrats and independents.
“We’re tired of just playing defense,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., the party’s 2016 vice presidential candidate. “It is now time to talk about the next big idea. It is a good time for everybody to put their big ideas on the table.” His offering: “Medicare-X,” a public insurance plan to be initially deployed in communities that lack private insurer competition.
Rising Democratic ambitions come as a cloud of uncertainty lingers over former President Barack Obama’s health law. While major provisions have survived the GOP onslaught, some Republicans are vowing to go for repeal again. Congress has ended the health law’s requirement that most people get coverage, and that’s expected to lead to higher premiums in 2019. But bipartisan legislation to stabilize insurance markets doesn’t seem to be getting traction.
Obama’s former health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, says she sees Democrats reclaiming a core belief that health care should be a right guaranteed under law.
“Coverage for all is as much of an organizing principle for Democrats as eliminating Obamacare is for Republicans,” said Sebelius. “But it turned out that (Republicans) didn’t have any idea what that meant. I think Democrats have a much clearer vision.”
Time will tell. Here’s a sample of ideas under debate by Democrats and others on the political left:
—Medicare for All: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made single-payer, government-run health care the…