2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates Disagree on Health Care

In the recent Democratic primary debates, the top 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidates each proposed vastly different approaches to universal health care.

Candidates in favor of building onto the existing Affordable Care Act (ACA) include former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Obama administration housing and urban development secretary Julian Castro, and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. Eighty-four percent of Democrats approve of Obamacare, and its popularity has increased among all Americans since the 2016 election.

U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) both support “Medicare for All,” a single-payer government plan that would eventually replace private health insurance. Sixty-four percent of Democrats, and 41% of all American adults, claim to support “Medicare for All,” but according to poll numbers, approval declines if it means private options will disappear completely.

“I think for the general public, the debate’s been baffling. There’s been a lot of talk about Medicare for All and a lot of these other proposals, but the differences between them are fairly hard to decipher,” said Tricia Neuman, director of the Medicare policy program at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke support middle-of-the-road approaches that would not ban private insurers and would roll out the public option over a longer period. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll showed that 90% of Democrats and 70% of all adults support a public option.

Despite their differences, NPR reported that all candidates agreed health care reform is a priority and were careful not to criticize one another’s ideas too harshly during the debate.

Sources: Reuters, September 10, 2019; NPR, September 13, 2019.