As he mounts a long challenge to President Biden, Rep. Dean Phillips says he’s experienced American health care policy.
Gone is his years of skepticism about the implementation of a national single-payer health care system. Now Mr. Phillips, a moderate Democrat from Minnesota, is embracing Medicare for All proposals championed in two presidential campaigns by Senator Bernie Sanders, whose former aide now advises Mr. Phillips’s campaign.
Mr. Phillips said in an interview Tuesday that he would co-sponsor a House proposal that would expand Medicare by creating a national health insurance program available to all Americans. The change comes seven weeks into the presidential election campaign. yet to show significant progress in the public vote.
I was a good example of someone who was convinced by propaganda that it was an absurd left-wing notion, Mr. Phillips said. It is not. It really isn’t. And that, I think, is part of my migration, if you will, the migration of understanding and care and intellectual curiosity and, above all, listening to people..
Passing the motion of the House of Representatives is a small bet. With Republicans in control of the House, there is little chance of a vote on it. Although Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California was the speaker, Democrats never voted on the Medicare for All proposals, which their progressive caucus supported in large part because President Biden did not support such a move, and centrist Democrats believed it was a bridge too far.
Mr. Phillips, speaking in a video conference interview from an on-screen profile that identified him as a generic Democrat with nods to the parties that are doing best in the polls, insisted that his recent developments on health care were not an attempt to outdo Mr. Biden. left.
Instead, he said, he is convinced that expanding Medicare, the government-run insurance program for the elderly, to cover all Americans would save the federal government money and draw support from not only progressives but also conservatives, including former President Donald J. Trump.
This is by no means a Hail Mary, Mr. Phillips said. That’s not an olive branch for progressives. Do you know what it really is? It’s an invitation to Trumpers.
Kevin Munoz, a spokesman for Biden’s campaign, declined to comment on Mr. Phillips.
Mr. Phillips, a businessman who made his fortune helping run his family’s alcohol-distilling empire and later helped build the gelato behemoth, is a former chairman of Allina Health, one of Minnesota’s largest health systems. He said his beliefs began to change about 10 years ago when his daughter Pia, then 13, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he saw the gaps between the haves and the have-nots.
In July 2020, as a first-term congressman, he approved a state public option that would allow Americans to buy into Medicaid. Recently, he said, he has been conferring with Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which is the lead sponsor of all House Medicare bills and is supported by more than half of House Democrats.
Biden has shifted the Democratic debate on health care away from the idea of a single-payer plan and focused instead on narrower issues such as lowering drug costs and improving maternal health.
That’s not a serious proposition in today’s environment, Leslie Dach, president of the health advocacy group Protect Our Care and a former Obama administration official, said of Mr. Phillipss switch. We live in an age where all our energy is spent protecting what we have from the Republicans in Congress.
Mr. Phillips has not gained much traction. A CNN-University of New Hampshire poll last month showed him with about 10 percent of likely Democratic primary support in New Hampshire, the only state where he has a campaign. Mr. Bidens name will not appear on the ballot, but in the same CNN poll, 65 percent of voters said they would write in his name.
Mr. Phillips said he hopes to do well in New Hampshire before moving on to Michigan, where Mr. Biden’s approval ratings in recent polls have taken a hit from black and Arab-American voters who disapprove of his support for Israel in its war against Hamas.
But Mr. Phillips offered little daylight between himself and Mr. Biden in a conflict that has left Democratic voters bitterly divided. The congressman said he would not call for an immediate ceasefire and that he does not consider Israel an apartheid state, as many on the left claim.
Still, Mr. Phillips insisted that Democrats were so disillusioned with Mr. Biden that when presented with another option, they would take it.
The good news is that 66 percent of the country doesn’t hate me yet, Mr. Phillips said, digging into the dismal approval ratings of presidents. The United States has already decided on President Biden and Vice President Harris.
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