Two Weeks out from Midterms, Gillum Moderates Position on Medicare for All

October 23, 2018 by TWN Staff
Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee and a candidate for Florida governor, speaks during the Women's March outside of the MANA Wynwood Convention Center on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2018. (Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald/TNS)

TAMPA — In a contentious first debate between the two Florida gubernatorial candidates in Tampa this week, Republican Ron DeSantis repeatedly pressed Democrat Andrew Gillum on his support for Medicare for all, as the Democratic candidate made a notable shift away from his previous hardline stance to more moderate ground. The closely-watched nationally televised debate featured relentless attacks by both candidates, but the topic of healthcare featured prominently as the fate of millions of Floridians’ potential access could hinge on the outcome of the race.

Medicare is a federal program, and in order to expand it, not only would both the House and Senate need to pass legislation, but President Trump would also need to sign it into law. This is unlikely and a state governor would have little influence over the process. However, the discussion taking place is indicative of the leftward push of many in the Democratic base.

DeSantis repeatedly asked Gillum about his support for Medicare for all, a federal proposal to expand healthcare to every American under the program.

“Would you sign the bill for single-payer health care?” DeSantis asked.

Gillum deflected, responding that he supports expanding Medicaid to 800,000 Floridians under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which included significant subsidies for states to implement the program on behalf of its poorest residents. DeSantis has indicated he would not expand the program in Florida.

The back-and-forth continued with DeSantis claiming support for protecting the healthcare of people with pre-existing conditions, despite repeatedly taking votes to repeal the ACA during his time in Congress. Prior to the implementation of the ACA, patients had few guarantees that pre-existing conditions would be covered when shopping for healthcare plans.

The heated debate surrounding healthcare is representative of the conversation playing out in elections across the country. As Republicans in Congress and the White House have worked to undermine key protections and oversight, conservatives continue to call for repeal of the ACA. On the flip side many progressive Democrats are pushing to expand the Medicare program – currently available only to adults aged 65 and over – to all Americans.

Healthcare has played a key role in congressional and presidential elections for over a decade, as rising costs and diminishing access to care have pushed the issue to the forefront of electoral politics. In the 33 states (including DC) that have expanded Medicaid, many of those who benefit are unemployed or working in low-paying jobs that do not offer employer-based healthcare.

Medicare for all would change the healthcare landscape in America drastically. While some elected officials advocate providing all Americans access to the popular federally administered senior program, others have voiced concerns about the potential costs of such an expansion, in addition to the impact on the private health insurance system, which employs more than 2.5 million people nationwide.

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