During a live town hall hosted by Fox News on Monday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) responded to a question about why he wants the federal government to provide health insurance for everyone with the usual arguments in favor of a system he calls “Medicare for All.”
He told the largely supportive audience in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, that Medicare is already working well for seniors, and that extending it to the entire population is simply a logical response to problems in the private insurance market.
Bret Baier, a Fox News anchor co-hosting the town hall, followed up by asking the audience how many people currently receive health care coverage from private insurance through their job. A majority of people, including Sanders and Baier, raised their hands.
Then, presumably hoping to show that a transition to public insurance would encounter skepticism, Baier asked the audience how many of those people would want to switch to Medicare for All.
Nearly everyone in the room who had raised their hands raised them again.
Given the opportunity to elaborate on why he was not concerned about requiring people to supplant their private insurance with Medicare for All, Sanders noted that people often switch insurers involuntarily when they change jobs or when an employer switches to a different plan.
“This is not new,” he said.
Of course, a single town hall audience is not necessarily representative of national public opinion. In recent years, Medicare for All ― single-payer health care ― has attained majority support in national polls. But a January poll showed that support for the idea dropped significantly when people learned that it would require them to give up their private insurance.
That may be one reason why Sanders stands virtually alone in his single-minded commitment to enacting single-payer health care and the bluntness of his contempt for the private health insurance industry.
Although the four senators competing with Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary have co-sponsored his Medicare for All bill, they tend to emphasize more incremental steps, like introducing a Medicare buy-in or lowering the program’s eligibility age.