AARP forum showcases party divide over Medicare for All

CEDAR RAPIDS — The three presidential candidates who addressed a crowd of AARP members in Cedar Rapids Wednesday showcased the Democratic Party’s debate about how to achieve universal health care coverage.

Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney suggests a “Medicare for All” policy endangers Democrats..

“As a matter of politics, I think if we run on telling half the country, because literally over 150 million Americans have private health insurance, that we’re going to make that illegal and you have to get some new government program, they’re not going to trust us,” Delaney said, “and they’re not going to vote for us.”

Delaney calls his alternative “Better Care” — giving Americans under the age of 65 the option of being covered with a basic, federally-funded health care plan or taking a tax credit that’s equal to the plan’s annual estimated premium.

Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, is a “Medicare for All” supporter.

“Really what this is is about making sure that every single person who is in need of care is able to get that care, regardless of how much money you make or how little money you make, how much you have or what pre-existing condition you have,” Gabbard said.

While Americans will pay higher taxes, Gabbard said health care costs will be “drastically” lowered by eliminating the administrative costs of private insurance, plus the efficiency of having just one billing system.

Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, the third candidate to speak today, said the public opposes “Medicare for All.”.

“We have to raise massively in this country to pay for it,” Bennet said. “…There’s nothing nuanced about almost 200 million people having to go on a government plan just because Bernie Sanders says it’s what everybody should have.”

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is a leading proponent of Medicare for All. Bennet is proposing an alternative he calls “Medicare X” — creating a Medicare-like public option Americans could buy.

Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan was scheduled to speak as well, but event organizers were notified about an hour before the forum was to begin that Ryan would not attend. AARP and The Des Moines Register will host two more candidate forums. The first, on Friday afternoon, will be held in Sioux City.. Saturday’s forum will be held in Council Bluffs.