Government

Michael Bennet pitches health care plan that's cheaper than Medicare for all

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet illustrates a point during a meeting with The Gazette Editorial Board Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Cedar Rapids. (James Q. Lynch/The Gazette)
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet illustrates a point during a meeting with The Gazette Editorial Board Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Cedar Rapids. (James Q. Lynch/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s not just the $31 trillion price tag, but also the lack of cost-savings that cause Michael Bennet to reject the Medicare for all plans some of his rivals for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination are proposing on the campaign trail.

“To be frank with you, I think that’s much more important to most Americans than coverage because most are covered one way or another,” the Colorado senator said Monday during a meeting with The Gazette Editorial Board. “We need to get a handle on costs.”

And Bennet has a plan for that. His Medicare-X would create a public option that he says would be cheaper than Medicare for all — cheaper for taxpayers and cheaper for the federal government, which would improve the country’s bottom line.

“We’re spending twice as much as any other industrialized nation on health care,” he said. “We have to reduce our health care costs. But that’s barely been discussed in the Democratic primary process.”

Medicare for all, Bennet continued, is a “terrible policy because it makes illegal all private insurance except cosmetic insurance, whether you want it or not, and it raises taxes on the American public by $31 trillion.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan would cover about half the $31 trillion cost over 10 years with taxes on people making $29,000 or more, Bennet said. Medicare for all plans in Colorado and California didn’t get off the ground. In Vermont, state lawmakers approved a Medicare for all plan, but then rejected it when it was determined taxes would have to go up 10 percent on individuals and 11 percent on businesses.

“That’s lousy policy,” Bennet said. His public option would be “far less cataclysmic” for the public than the plans from Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

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As bad as the policy is, the politics are worse for Democrats, Bennet warned. Democrats running on Medicare for all won’t be able to win Senate races in Iowa or in Colorado or Maine, where Democrats hope to pick up seats in 2020 as part of their effort to regain control of the Senate.

“I don’t understand why as Democrats we would want to take the political hit of being the party that repeals the Affordable Care Act when (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell has spent the last 10 years trying to repeal it and has failed,” Bennet said. “We fought and beat that, and now we have Democrats who say they want to repeal it.”

Rather than “going down this rat hole” with Sanders and Warren, progressives should be investing in overarching issues such as infrastructure and education.

“And yet here we are, spending all of this time on Medicare for all,” Bennet said.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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