Elizabeth Warren appears to be softening her backing of single-payer health care, reinforcing difference with Bernie Sanders

One of the most common things you’ll see in politics is for a politician to tell you they are for whatever a voter is asking them for, but just not right now. Or they’ll use a slogan that is commonly confused for a number of things — which is what’s happening with Medicare for All at the moment.

Masschussetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren played that game during a recent interview with Bloomberg:

“Our first job is to defend the Affordable Care Act. Our second is to improve it and make changes, for example to families’ vulnerability to the impact of high-priced drugs. And the third is to find a system of Medicare available to all that will increase the qualify of care while it decreases the cost of all of us,” Warren said in an interview.

Find a system? Medicare for All as defined by Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders’s bill — of which Warren is a cosponsor — is a single-payer system. It’s all laid out. This is the kind of language you use when you want wiggle room.

As I noted in a Jacobin piece earlier this year, Warren did not endorse single-payer when she ran for Senate in 2012. She didn’t come out for it until 2017, when it basically became a bandwagon issue for presidential contenders. She has authored her own health care bills that are based on health insurance and drug competition, and those may very well be her preference. Sanders, on the other hand, has spent decades arguing for a single-payer health care system with free at the point of service care.

Maybe Warren’s preference — to focus on various competitive piecemeal reforms and then lastly figure out some kind of new plan and slap the Medicare for all label on it —  is right. Maybe Sanders’s preference is right. But let’s not pretend these two candidates are the same.

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