South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Medicare for All Will Be ‘The Center of Gravity’

Melanie Arter | February 5, 2019 | 10:17am EST
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South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Screenshot)

( – South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg – the first openly gay man to run for president – told ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopolous” on Sunday that he supports having a single payer health care system.

When asked whether Medicare for all – which Buttigieg supports – means doing away with private insurance, the mayor said, “I don't see why it requires that. I mean, after all, if the framework we're using is Medicare, a lot of people who have Medicare also have Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage, something like that. There can be a role for the private sector, but just leaving people...”

“But you're for a single payer system, aren't you?” host George Stephanopolous asked.

“I think so. I think that's the right place for us to head as a country, and we can debate the finer points of how to get there,” Buttigieg said. “Look, I studied in the UK where there is not only single payer, there's nationalized medicine, which we're not calling for. Even there, there is a role for the private sector. I just don't believe that leaving Americans to the tender mercies of corporations is the best way to organize the health sector in this country.”

“But single-payer, you would be replacing private health insurance,” Stephanopolous said.

“Yes, at least -- again, Medicare for all is the best framework, right? So if we want to make Medicare available to everybody, whether it's as a public option to buy in or simply establishing that as how the payer structure works in this country, that's going to be the center of gravity, and the bottom line is we need to make sure that every American is able to get health care,” Buttigieg said.

“How are you going to sell that when President Obama, he didn't get rid of all private health insurance, he said if you like what you have, you can keep it. He was scorched by those who couldn't keep their plans. You would have single payer, eventually that would mean doing away with everyone's plans. How can you possibly sell that in this country today?” Stephanopolous asked.


Buttigieg proposed gradually switching over to a single payer system by making a version of Medicare available on the health care exchanges for people to opt into.

“Well, you had to make sure that it leads to better results, and if we need a road, a gradual way to get there, then we can start with Medicare for all who want it by making some version of Medicare available on the exchanges for people to opt into, as part of the pathway to Medicare for all so that you can try before you buy so to speak as a country,” he said.

Buttigieg said most citizens in most developed countries enjoy a single payer kind of health care, and American’s don’t. “It's wrong,” the mayor said.

“And one very interesting thing when you talk about the experience in the Obama years is the short amount of time in which ACA went from a political loser -- I mean, what it was like to be a Democrat in 2010 as those town halls happened, and by 2018, it was perhaps the winning issue for Democrats, because when we saw what those steps actually meant, when we saw how they made our lives better, we realized that all this crazy, conspiratorial talk about death panels or the horrible things that will happen if we don't make sure there is a big corporate role in our health care system, a lot of the things we're being sold don't actually come to pass in the real world,” he said.

Buttigieg, who is openly gay and married, said Democrats need to lead the way on a discussion of what freedom means. 

“Conservatives care a lot about one kind of freedom,” he said, “and it’s freedom from regulation, freedom from government,” but for Buttigieg, “there are a lot of things besides government that can make you unfree.”

“You're not free if you can't start a small business because leaving your job would mean losing your healthcare. You are not free if you can't marry the person you love because some county clerk is imposing their interpretation of their religion,” he said.



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