Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is about to put Democrats' newfound embrace of single-payer health care to the test.
With the Republican health care bill in dire straits, the Democratic Party's most high-profile politicians have embraced Sanders's "Medicare-for-all" rallying cry in interviews and on the stump. In the past few weeks, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have all voiced their support for Medicare-for-all. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Vox's Ezra Klein in April that he believes "ultimately, in ideas like single payer or Medicare-for-all."
@JStein_Vox: Talking w/ @ ezraklein, @ CoryBookergives very strong support for Medicare-4-All: "I believe in ideas like single-payer." Transcript:
Their positions mark a clear shift in the party's center of gravity from just last year, when single-payer health care was still regarded in Democratic circles as an impossibly, impractically far-left dream. On the campaign trail in 2016, Hillary Clinton called single-payer an idea that "will never, ever come to pass."
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Now that seems out of touch with the base. Polling shows that the percentage of Democrats who want to see a single-payer system has increased by 19 points in three years.
But despite the rise of "Medicare-for-all" as a political slogan in the party, Democrats don't have a clear plan to translate that aspiration into policy, and their efforts to implement single-payer at the state level have been rebuffed — including in blue states like Vermont and California.
Liberal Senate Democrats have thus been able to express their admiration for Medicare-for-all in abstract terms without getting behind either the failed state initiatives or a specific congressional proposal with a massive price tag.
Sanders will soon change that. The Vermont senator is expected to release his own revised Medicare-for-all bill, the path to single-payer health care. When he does so, Senate Democrats will have to make a choice they've thus far avoided: Are they for Medicare-for-all in practice, or just in theory?