Clinton backs public option on health care in nod to Sanders supporters

Posted at 5:33 PM, Jul 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-09 17:33:03-04

WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton on Saturday expressed support for expanding taxpayer-funded health insurance, in a nod to the desires of Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

In a statement released as Democrats gather in Orlando, Florida, to finalize their party’s platform, Clinton backed the so-called “public option” for states, which would expand health insurance coverage beyond the current provisions in Obamacare.

Clinton has supported the public option for decades. But she ran in the Democratic primary as a candidate who wanted to expand Obamacare and used Sanders’ support for a public option against him, saying it would be too costly and run into interference from Republican governors.

“We have more work to do to finish our long fight to provide universal, quality, affordable health care to everyone in America,” Clinton said in a statement released by her campaign. “Already, the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans. As president, I will make sure Republicans never succeed in their attempts to strip away their care and that the remaining uninsured should be able to get the affordable coverage they need to stay healthy.”

Clinton also called for allowing people 55 years and older to be able to enroll in Medicare. Currently, the typical age for enrollment is 65. She pledged to expand funding by $40 billion for primary care services at federally qualified health care centers.

Her campaign estimates that her plan would provide care for 25 million people in the U.S.

Sanders quickly praised Clinton’s announcement, tweeting, “Today’s proposal by @HillaryClinton is an important step toward expanding health insurance and health care access to millions of Americans.”

Clinton’s announcement on Saturday is the second adjustment she’s made in her platform this week as part of her overture to Sanders’ supporters. On Wednesday, she unveiled a new college affordability plan based on conversations with Sanders that includes tuition-free enrollment in public, in-state colleges and universities for families of four making up to $85,000. The income benchmark would increase over four years to $125,000 — covering about 80% of U.S. families.

The health care plan also comes as people familiar with talks between the two campaigns have said Sanders is poised to endorse Clinton at a campaign event Tuesday in New Hampshire, provided that final disagreements in the Democratic platform can be resolved during this weekend’s party meeting in Orlando.

Friday night, the party agreed to support a federal $15-an-hour minimum wage, a key issue for Sanders and his progressive supporters.

Clinton’s support for the public option dates back to at least 1993, when she and her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, advocated for it during their unsuccessful effort to expand access to health insurance. Hillary Clinton, who headed the administration’s task force on reforming the system, delivered a 1,000-page plan that was dubbed “Hillary Care,” which required Americans and permanent resident aliens to enroll in a health plan. Other provisions included Americans below a certain income level paying nothing for care.

As a presidential candidate in 2008, Hillary Clinton again pushed for universal coverage.

But in running against Sanders, she argued that his plan to expand Medicare to cover all citizens — widely estimated to cost $15 trillion — would be too costly and that Republican governors have blocked Obamacare’s efforts to expand Medicaid.