Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) would not say how much a "Medicare for all" program would cost during repeated pressing Monday on "CBS This Morning."
Booker joined the increasingly crowded field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders last week, and he is one of several prominent candidates who has embraced the mantle of "Medicare for all." What exactly that means and how it would be paid for remains unclear as Democrats begin jockeying for position in what promises to be a race to the left.
Co-host John Dickerson mentioned it would be difficult for Democrats to pass such a proposal, even with a Senate majority, because it would likely require Republican votes to clear the filibuster threshold.
"This is where I disagree," Booker said. "I've gone across this country, sat with Republican farmers, with independents. Everybody agrees that [in] the United States of America, we should never have somebody who does not get access to care because they can't afford it. This idea that health care is a right is popular on both sides of the aisle."
When co-host Norah O'Donnell asked why not strengthen Obamacare instead, Booker acknowledged the term "Medicare for all" means different things to different candidates and said there were pathways that would expand access while lowering costs.
"A chicken in every pot is popular as well. How much would ‘Medicare for all' cost?" O'Donnell asked.
"Norah, a couple things," Booker said.
"Just quickly, just so that people know how much it would cost," O'Donnell said.
"Even the CBO says if you lower Medicare to allow 50-year-olds to get into it, you can not only save the government money, but you can lower premiums for all Americans," Booker said. "This is the thing. We're not talking directly to issues that can expand access to care and create affordability, and to say that it can't be done in Washington—"
"I'm just wondering if Democrats are having an honest conversation, while they are promising what sounds good, and it should be a universal right that people have access to health care," O'Donnell said. "But if it's $20 billion and $30 billion over 10 years, no one is having that discussion about how that will be paid for."
Booker said he was having that discussion and then touted his record of battling mass incarceration, but he never gave a dollar amount.
It's likely O'Donnell slipped up and meant to say $20 or $30 trillion instead of billion when discussing the price tag behind instituting a single-payer health care system. One think tank estimated such a program, as championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), would cost $32 trillion to implement over the next decade.