Struggling presidential hopeful Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke pushed back on his Democratic primary rivals calling for abolishing private insurance in comments defending private plans Friday.
The former Texas congressman claimed he heard from "fellow Americans" that it was important to maintain choice on health care.
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"At one point in 2018, you seems to be advocating for a single-payer health care system," one of the moderators asked O'Rourke during an appearance at the AARP Candidates Forum. "But now you're talking about more of an evolution of people being able to transition from their private insurance. Have you actually changed your position or has this just been an evolving plan? How does it work?"
"The goal has always been guaranteed, high-quality universal health care," O'Rourke responded.
He continued to emphasize the importance of preserving consumer choice in health care, saying it is "really important that as we get to guaranteed, high quality universal that we also preserve choice."
"That's something that I'm hearing loud and clear from our fellow Americans," O'Rourke said.
Fellow presidential candidate Bill de Blasio went after O'Rourke during the first debate for defending private insurance plans. "How can you defend a system that is not working?" de Blasio asked.
During the debate, Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) both signaled that their health care plans would abolish private insurance plans, although Harris later attempted to walk back her claim. However, her plan does appear to eliminate practically all private health insurance plans while merely allowing certain elective plans to remain private. Such plans would cover procedures like cosmetic surgery rather than most general health care.