Medicare for All vs. Medicare Buy-In: Dem Debates, Round 4

person holding sign reading Medicare buy-in in front of face holding sign with Medicare for All in hand in front of White House podium; dem debates round 4

Twelve White House hopefuls took the stage again Tuesday night in their latest bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination. While former Dem debates have felt a bit frenzied, this one was more measured as candidates took shots at the new front-runner, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

Warren’s Medicare reform plans

Warren has been a long-time supporter of Medicare reform, but until the first round of Dem debates, she had been open to the idea of there being “multiple ways” to go about making the move to a single-payer system happen. However, during the first debate, she unequivocally backed Medicare for All, saying, “I’m with Bernie.”

Warren defends Medicare for All 

Although the Medicare for All bill was written by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), candidates questioned the clarity of her plan. 

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg noted that Warren doesn’t have a detailed plan to pay for a single-payer system. 

“Look,” said Buttigieg, “this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular. Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything–except this.” 

Warren responded, “I think as Democrats we are going to succeed when we dream big and fight hard, not when we dream small and quit before we get started.”

Medicare buy-in

Buttiegieg favors a Medicare buy-in (public) option, an idea that has been growing in popularity over the past few months according to an NPR poll from July. The poll found that 70 percent of Americans think a Medicare public option is a good idea, while only 41 percent approve of Medicare for All, which would eliminate the private insurance industry. 

Buttiegieg put forth his Medicare buy-in plan, Medicare for All Who Want It, in August, positioning himself as a solid choice among moderate Democrats. Another option for moderates is former Vice President Joe Biden. However, Biden lost the top spot last week when Warren caught up with and then surpassed him in the average of national polls.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) also favors a Medicare buy-in option, taking offense to Warren’s assertion that candidates who don’t support single-payer don’t care about regular people. 

“You know,” Klobuchar said, “I think simply because you have different ideas doesn’t mean you’re [not] fighting for regular people.” 


Warren was able to evade most attacks, but she still avoided giving a yes-or-no answer to whether or not taxes would be raised for the middle class in order to pay for Medicare for All. Both she and Sanders have repeated that overall healthcare costs for Medicare for All, but neither have presented detailed plans about how the system will be funded and how the money will be distributed. However, it is believed Warren’s plan would be funded through her infamous 2 percent wealth tax

The next Democratic debate will be held in Atlanta, GA on November 20. So far, only eight candidates have qualified for the debate. 

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