health care

Do you support creating a public option to expand health care, such as allowing people to buy into a state Medicaid program regardless of income?

Yes

Yes, supports a public option

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“Whether you’re covered through your employer or on your own or not, you should have the choice to buy into a public option plan for Medicare — your choice,” Biden said at a campaign event. “If the insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another choice,” his health-care plan said.

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Joe Biden
Biden

Michael Bennet (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet is no longer running for president. Bennet and Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) introduced the Medicare-X Choice Act to create a public option for health insurance. "In rural communities, limited competition is leaving many Coloradans with fewer choices, and, in some cases, only one high-cost option" Bennet said. "Medicare-X is a plan that begins to fix this problem by giving families and individuals a meaningful and affordable alternative."

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg is no longer running for president. “The first step is to create a Medicare-like public option — health insurance that would be administered by the federal government but paid for by customer premiums,” Bloomberg's health plan said. “In rolling out this option, priority would go to the uninsured, including low-income people who are in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the ACA. A public insurance option would improve consumer choice and increase competition in the private insurance market, pushing down everyone’s premiums. People of modest means who buy the public option would be eligible for the same subsidies that would apply on the health insurance exchanges.”

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Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. Booker is a co-sponsor of Schatz's State Public Option Act.

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Cory Booker
Booker

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “Yes. I believe that we can increase access and affordability by providing a public option for Americans who want to buy into government insurance, which will also ensure competition in the private market,” Bullock told The Post. “In Montana, we expanded Medicaid and brought coverage to 100,000 people, worked to lower prescription drug costs, and implemented a plan for high risk pools that lowered health care costs for others by 8 to 9%. I can bring that kind of success to the national level.”

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Steve Bullock
Bullock

Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg is no longer running for president. The Buttigieg campaign told The Post he supports creating a public option for people to buy into Medicaid regardless of income.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. Castro supports creating a public option to expand health care, he told The Post.

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Julian Castro
Castro

John Delaney (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney is no longer running for president. “A key component of my universal health-care plan is that everyone is guaranteed coverage, but that we preserve choice and competition in the system,” Delaney told The Post. “There’s certainly some overlap between my approach and various public option bills.”

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John Delaney
Delaney

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. “I support the State Public Option Act,” de Blasio told The Post.

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Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard is no longer running for president. "All Americans should have access to affordable healthcare through Medicare or a public option," Gabbard's campaign website said.

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Gillibrand is a co-sponsor of Schatz's State Public Option Act.

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Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Kamala D. Harris (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, California

Harris is no longer running for president. Harris is a co-sponsor of Schatz's State Public Option Act.

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Kamala Harris
Harris

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. "As President, [Hickenlooper] is committed to ensure universal coverage by enabling people to buy into a public option such as Medicare," his campaign told The Post. "And would enhance that option to ensure people have a 'medical home' — a place they can turn to consistently for their health needs, with an emphasis on preventive and mental health care."

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John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. Inslee, who recently introduced a public option bill in his state, told CNN that health care should move toward universal coverage "like a public option."

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Jay Inslee
Inslee

Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar is no longer running for president. Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of Schatz's State Public Option Act.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. “Let’s strengthen the Affordable Care Act by introducing a modern public option, like an updated Medicare (which was designed in 1963), and let it compete with private plans to offer the best care at the lowest price to consumers,” Moulton said in a Facebook post.

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Seth Moulton
Moulton

Beto O'Rourke (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Texas

O'Rourke is no longer running for president. O'Rourke supports creating a public option to expand health care, he told The Post.

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Beto O'Rourke
O'Rourke

Deval Patrick (Dropped out)

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick is no longer running for president. Patrick doesn't support Medicare-for-all "in the terms we've been talking about," he said in a Nov. 2019 CBS interview. He said he supports a public option. His campaign website called for “a health care system that provides access to high-quality, low-cost health services everywhere and for every single individual, bar none.”

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Deval Patrick
Patrick

Tim Ryan (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan is no longer running for president. “There are ways to strengthen Obamacare, such as adding a public option, increasing subsidies to make coverage more affordable or lowering the age eligibility for Medicare,” Ryan said in a Facebook post.

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Tim Ryan
Ryan

Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders is no longer running for president. “I think that until we manage to pass Medicare-for-all, we should be giving states the tools they need to provide affordable, comprehensive coverage to their residents,” Sanders told The Post.

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Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. Sestak supports creating a public option to expand health care, he told The Post.

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Joe Sestak
Sestak

Tom Steyer (Dropped out)

Billionaire activist

Steyer is no longer running for president. Steyer supports creating a government-backed health care option, he told The Post.

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

Eric Swalwell (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, California

Swalwell is no longer running for president. “I support coverage for all, i.e., Medicare for all who want it,” Swalwell told The Post. “This would serve as a public option for any American, operating alongside and competing with private insurance plans, in order to drive prices down for everyone. If you’re sick you should be seen, and if you’re seen you shouldn’t go broke.”

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Eric Swalwell
Swalwell

Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

Warren is no longer running for president. Warren is a co-sponsor of Schatz's State Public Option Act.

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Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “I’m not opposed to that plan, but because Medicaid is not as comprehensive as Medicare, I’m putting my effort into Medicare-for-all,” Williamson told The Post.

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Andrew Yang (Dropped out)

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is no longer running for president. “I agree with the goal of expanding health coverage provided by the government to more people,” Yang told The Post. “While I personally support the expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans, I’d be happy to work with anyone who is trying to achieve the same end goal -- getting health-care costs off of the backs of American businesses and citizens.”

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Andrew Yang
Yang

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Background As it exists now, state Medicaid programs are public health insurance programs for low-income individuals. In our questionnaire, we asked campaigns about a proposal from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) that would expand Medicaid by authorizing states to offer a buy-in option to anyone who wants the coverage, not just low-income people. Other candidates have also expressed support for creating a public option, such as a Medicare buy-in.

A January 2019 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found 75 percent of the public favors allowing people who don’t get insurance at work to buy insurance through a state Medicaid program.

How we compiled candidate positions

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic campaign asking whether they support various health-care policies. We organized candidates with similar stances into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town halls and other news reports. See something that we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.