Yang supports ‘Medicare for All’ label, would keep private insurance

Businessman Andrew Yang said he supports “Medicare for All” but would keep the option of private insurance, in stark contrast to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ original “Medicare for All” plan that essentially eliminates private insurers.

The Democratic presidential candidate said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that his version of Medicare for All could “exist to complement the current existing private insurance market,” and that his campaign would unveil a “more detailed roll-out of the full plan in the days to come.”

Yang’s campaign website currently lists Medicare for All as one of his three main policies, but does not outline in detail how he would implement his health care plan if elected president.

Medicare for All, which has been spearheaded by Sanders, has emerged as a key fault line for 2020 Democratic candidates. Though it has become a catchphrase among Democrats — several candidates who are senators signed on to the bill as cosponsors — there is no universal agreement on how best to overhaul the American health care system.

“If you look at it, what does it say? Medicare for All, which means that you have a Medicare program that everyone can be enrolled in. It does not say Medicare for All, and all private insurance is hereby illegal,” Yang said.

Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, in contrast to Yang’s vision, would essentially eliminate private insurers.

“So you’re adopting the label, but not the bill,” Bash said.

“That’s correct,” Yang responded.

Sanders’ Medicare for All plan does not ban private insurers, but it leaves them only a tiny slice of the market to cover. Under Medicare for All, insurers could not cover services that would be included in the government-run plan, which would offer very comprehensive benefits, including doctors’ visits, emergency care, hospitalization, mental health, maternity, rehabilitation, prescription drugs, vision, dental and hearing aids. Carriers could still sell policies that covered non-medically necessary procedures, such as cosmetic surgery.

Yang’s goal, he said, is to “demonstrate to the American people that private insurance is not what you need” and that the Medicare plan is “superior to your current insurance.” He would do that, he said, “without pulling the rug out from under you and saying that the insurance no longer exists.”

He condemned the private insurance business model, saying it is “ratcheting up prices, year after year” and hurting families and businesses. But, he said, a majority of Americans are content with many aspects of their current coverage. “You can’t completely upend an existing system that tens of millions of Americans rely upon, in my view,” he said.

Proponents of Medicare for All want to create a single, government-run health insurance program. Yang echoed other Democratic candidates and said he regards health care as a basic human right, and that under his plan every American would have coverage.

Yang also delved into the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump that is dividing Washington and the country.

He said it was discouraging that no Republicans voted in support of the resolution formalizing proceedings last week. He said the lack of Republican support in the House suggested the Republican-controlled Senate would not vote to convict Trump.

Yang said there is a chance impeachment hurts the Democratic nominee for president. He noted senators who are 2020 candidates would have to return to Washington, DC, if there was a trial in the Senate, and that it would take the focus away from the campaign.

“Wouldn’t be bad for you though,” Bash said.

“I would be right here in Iowa, or New Hampshire, or South Carolina, or Nevada, or someplace else campaigning. It’s true,” Yang said, with a laugh.

CNN’s Tami Luhby contributed to this report.