How Democratic presidential candidates want to change health care, Medicare

health care

The presidential candidates are proposing univeral health care for all Americans. How we get there is dividing them. (Shutterstock images)

Democrats asking for your vote in Michigan’s March 10 presidential primary are proposing health care overhauls that share a common goal: movement toward universal coverage for all Americans. 

But how they get there —and pay for it — has divided the candidates and fueled heated exchanges in televised debates. 

The dispute is largely centered on whether to upend the entire health care industry by creating a single-payer Medicare for All program, or build on the so-called Affordable Care Act by creating a “public option” insurance plan that would compete with private insurers in an attempt to drive down consumer costs.

Joe Biden

Here’s where the candidates stand:

Joe Biden

The former vice president served under President Barack Obama during passage of the Affordable Care Act and wants to build on that 2010 law, primarily by creating a new government-run public option health insurance plan. He would give consumers the choice to purchase a plan “like Medicare” or stay on private insurance. Biden also wants to expand tax credits and lower premiums for families who purchase insurance on the individual marketplace. He’s proposed paying for health care overhauls, eliminating capital gains tax “loopholes” and rolling back recent tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Read Biden’s plan

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

The U.S. senator from Vermont isn’t just a leading proponent of Medicare for All, as he reminded during a July debate: “I wrote the damn bill.” He introduced the latest version, the Medicare for All Act of 2019 last April.  At its core, the proposal would replace private health insurance with a “universal entitlement” provided to all residents without premiums, deductibles or copays. Sanders hasn’t specified exactly how he’d pay for the single-payer health care system but has laid out a series of financing “options,” most notably an employer-side payroll tax. Read Sanders’ plan


Tulsi Gabbard

 The Hawaii congresswoman co-sponsored a House version of the Medicare for All legislation and argues current health care laws are organized “by and for the benefit of big insurance and pharmaceutical companies. An earlier universal health care proposal she supported proposed financing the system by increasing income taxes on the top 5 percent of earners, instituting a progressive tax on payroll and self-employment income and new taxes on unearned income and stock and bond transactions. Read Gabbard’s plan

Editor's note: This article was updated March 5 to remove positions of candidates who have dropped out of the campaign since publication.

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Barry Visel
Mon, 01/27/2020 - 10:22am

We’re told social security will someday run out of money. Ditto for Medicare and Medicaid. Enough said?
But, I have a question. Where in Article 1, Section 8 did We the People give the Feds the right to involve themselves in our retirement plans and healthcare? These issues are great opportunities for news organizations to provide a little historical perspective on how we got here in the first place, not to mention some education about our Constitution and how it relates (or doesn’t) to our lives today.

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 10:31am

You should protest and not take those benefits. Don't worry, even Ayn Rand lacked those scruples.

Barry Visel
Wed, 01/29/2020 - 9:21am

Give me my money back that I was forced to pay for those “benefits” and I’ll gladly stop taking them.

middle of the mit
Wed, 01/29/2020 - 8:32pm


Only if you are willing to accept payment for your house burning down equivalent to the total premiums you paid into said insurance company. And NO! If you have changed insurance companies you only get what you paid from the private company the premiums you paid into said company.

Do you like those insurance terms?

Or you can take your chances with a private disability company or long term retirement company and hope they don't screw you over and tell you that you don't meet their defined benefits package.

It's a crap roll. And hopefully you don't roll craps!

If you do? In a private market you might roll craps twice!

Rob Sandera
Tue, 03/10/2020 - 10:19pm

You're being fed a crock of BS Social Security was good till 2039 before Trump and growing at almost $3 trillion right now that money is not an entitlement and it's not part of the federal budget and if they touch it you should probably thank some filthy rich GOP for ripping you off. I don't know how people can be so stupid to be conned by these people