Gillibrand: Americans Will Ditch Private Insurance for Medicare If We Do Public Option

March 19, 2019

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) laid out her vision of getting to a single-payer healthcare system on Monday, predicting the establishment of a buy-in option for Medicare would lead to American consumers ditching their private insurance plans in favor of the government plan.

Asked at her town hall on MSNBC how she would reach the goal of "Medicare for all" being championed by most 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, Gillibrand said private insurers would put profits above providing quality, affordable care.

"I believe, as I think most Americans do, that health care should be a right and not a privilege, and that means you have to fight for universal coverage that's affordable and quality for everybody," she said. "I think the quickest way you get there is you allow anyone to buy into Medicare at a price they can afford, something like 4 or 5 percent of income. They buy in so it's an earned benefit, and they are qualified automatically for Medicare."

"What that does at a minimum is create competition in the system immediately," she added. "Those insurers, I don't think they are going to compete. They refuse to lower their rates. They're pricing people out of the market today. But for the Affordable Care Act, they were dropping people with preexisting conditions, and under President Trump, they're going to keep dropping people with preexisting conditions. So the truth is–let's have a not-for-profit public option compete for the business–I think over a couple years you're going to transition into single payer."

MSNBC host Chris Hayes clarified that she meant private insurance would continue to exist in the meantime under her plan, but Gillibrand reiterated private insurers would not be able to compete with Medicare.

"I dare them [to try to continue existing], because I don't think they will meet the needs because they are for-profit companies," she said. "When your goal is to make money for your shareholders, you are not giving the patient the medicine they need or the treatment they need or the extra day in the hospital they need because it doesn't allow you to make enough money. So I don't think they will compete."

"So create this not-for-profit public option as a transition. I imagine within a few years, most Americans are going to choose Medicare because it's quality, it's more affordable," she added.