Former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper (Colo.) on Wednesday night distanced himself from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and other 2020 Democratic candidates who support Medicare for all, saying he doesn't agree with their approach.
Hickenlooper attended a CNN town hall in Atlanta, Ga., where he was asked by a University of Georgia student why voters should support him over some of his Democratic opponents based on his previous skepticism about the single-payer healthcare system.
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"You came out against single-payer health care saying that ‘it would be premature to dramatically remake our health care system at this time.' How do you expect voters to choose you over some of your contenders like Bernie Sanders who have had a consistent record of support for single-payer health care over their careers?" Ramin Zareian asked.
Hickenlooper, who announced earlier this month that he was running for president, said he appreciated the question and talked about how he has a record of bringing people together to come up with collaborative solutions, saying Colorado has about 95 percent universal coverage by expanding Medicaid and using health care exchanges. He went on to talk about how he doesn't agree with Sanders' single-payer health care approach with Medicare for all, but he believes there should be a public option.
"Let's be honest. Health care should be a right, not a privilege, right?" Hickenlooper said to applause. "I believe that. I’ve worked for that. I helped start a community health center in 1973, and we said back then health care needs to be a right, not a privilege. I want to support any way we can get to universal coverage. That should be our first and primary goal. That should be our north star."
He later acknowledged that there are tens of millions of Americans who like their health care coverage through their employer or spouse's employer, prompting him him to ask the audience to raise their hands if they were on an employee-backed health care plan. Most of the people in the audience raised their hands.
"I mean there are over 150 million people that I can’t imagine how we would pull them off of health care coverage that in most cases they like," he said.
The implementation of nationwide, single-payer health care would cost the U.S. government more than $32 trillion over the next ten years, according to the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center think tank.
Many of Hickenlooper's Democratic opponents have expressed support for the health care proposal, including Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas).