Former President Barack Obama called “Medicare for all” a “good new idea” on Friday afternoon, providing a high-profile boost to the nascent progressive movement pushing the policy.
In a speech at the University of Illinois, Obama argued that Democrats were innovating policies aimed at addressing the unique economic challenges facing young people, who in many cases do not have the same opportunities as their parents’ generation.
“It’s harder for young people to save for a rainy day let alone retirement,” he said. “So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like Medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate debt-free.”
Medicare for all is what progressive activists and lawmakers call a single-payer health care system. In such a system, which has become a top priority for parts of the Democratic Party base, Americans would receive health care coverage from the same federal program.
Obama’s complimentary remarks about Medicare for all, while not exactly a dramatic departure from his previous comments, represent the most significant establishment imprimatur for a policy that most mainstream elected Democrats viewed as fringe as recently as three years ago. During her presidential primary contest against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who went on to defeat Sanders and clinch the nomination, said that Medicare for all would “never, ever come to pass.”
Obama, by contrast, has never dismissed the idea out of hand. While discussing the Affordable Care Act at a May 2009 town hall, Obama said, “If I were starting a system from scratch then I think that the idea of moving toward a single-payer system could very well make sense.
“That’s the kind of system that you have in most industrialized countries around the world,” he continued. “The only problem is that we’re not starting from scratch.”
This story is developing.