Buttigieg Touts Support for Single-Payer Health Care: It Will Replace Private Health Insurance

Believes there is still a 'role for the private sector'

February 3, 2019

Peter Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana and a 2020 presidential candidate, said on Sunday that he supports "Medicare for all" and admitted the implementation of a single-payer system would replace private health insurance, yet argued there was still a "role for the private sector."

Buttigieg appeared on ABC's "This Week"  to discuss  various issues, including health care. Host George Stephanopoulos mentioned how Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), a fellow 2020 candidate for the Democratic nomination, supports "Medicare for all" and asked Buttigieg whether she was right when she said the system would do away with private insurance.

The mayor first tried to argue a single-payer system would still allow the private sector to operate.

"I don't see why it requires that. After all, if the framework we're using is Medicare, a lot of people who have Medicare also have Medicare supplements, Medicare advantage, something like that. There can be a role for the private sector," Buttigieg said.

"You're for a single-payer system, aren't you?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"I think so. I think that's the right place for us to head as a country and we can debate the finer points of how to get there," Buttigieg said. "I studied in the U.K. where there is not only single payer, but nationalized medicine., which we're not calling for even there. There is a role for the private sector. I just don't believe that leaving Americans to the tender mercies of corporations is the best way to organize the health sector in this country."

Stephanopoulos followed up to clarify whether a single-payer system would replace private health insurance, prompting him to respond, "Yes." He said if Democrats want to make Medicare available for everybody, then single-payer is the best system.

"How are you going to sell that when President Obama didn't get rid of all private health insurance? He said, 'if you like what you had, you could keep it.' He was scorched by those who couldn't keep their plans. ... How could you possibly sell that in this country today?" Stephanopoulos asked.

"You had to make sure that it leads to better results. And if we need a road, a gradual way to get there, we can start with 'Medicare for all' who want it by making some version of Medicare available for exchanges and people to opt into as part of the pathway to 'Medicare for all' so you can try before you buy, so to speak, as a country," Buttigieg said. "There is a course of the conversation, and we'll get into a lot of frameworks or paths to this, but the bottom line is most citizens in most developed countries enjoy access to this kind of health care and Americans don't."

Harris received backlash from Republicans last week when she said during a town hall in Iowa, "Let's eliminate all of that," referencing private insurance.

"So just to follow up on that ... you support the ‘Medicare for all' bill, initially co-sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders. You're also a cosponsor. I believe it will totally eliminate private insurance. So for people out there who like their insurance, they don't get to keep it?" CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked.

"Well, listen, the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require. Who of us has not had that situation where you've got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, ‘Well, I don't know if your insurance company is going to cover this.' Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on," Harris responded.