health care

What should happen to private insurance?

Essentially get rid of it

Essentially get rid of it

Bill de Blasio (Dropped out)

Mayor, New York City

de Blasio is no longer running for president. de Blasio raised his hand when asked whether he would get rid of private coverage in favor of a government-run plan during the first Democratic debate. In the second Democratic debate, he argued that private insurers have hurt Americans, saying, “Why are we not going to be the party that does something bold, that says we don't need to be dependent on private insurance? We can have a system that actually covers everyone.”

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Bill de Blasio
de Blasio

Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders is no longer running for president. “Yes, we should essentially eliminate private health insurance,” Sanders told The Post. “Private insurance as it exists today is nothing more than a confusing morass designed to make people jump through hoops before they can actually get the care they need.”

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Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

Warren is no longer running for president. Warren's Medicare-for-all transition plan pledged “no later than my third year in office, I will fight to pass legislation that would complete the transition to full Medicare for All. By this point, the American people will have experienced the full benefits of a true Medicare for All option, and they can see for themselves how that experience stacks up against high-priced care that requires them to fight tooth-and-nail against their insurance company. Per the terms of the Medicare for All Act, supplemental private insurance that doesn’t duplicate the benefits of Medicare for All would still be available. But by avoiding duplicative insurance and integrating every American into the new program, the American people would save trillions of dollars on health costs.” Warren raised her hand when asked whether she would get rid of private coverage in favor of a government-run plan during the first Democratic debate.

June 26: “Yes, I would support government-run insurance. Health care is a basic human right, and we fight for basic human rights. We need #MedicareForAll.”

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Elizabeth Warren
Warren

It can stay, for now

It can stay, for now

Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg is no longer running for president. The Buttigieg campaign told The Post private insurance can stay for now. “I don’t see why it requires that,” Buttigieg told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos when asked if Medicare-for-all means ending private insurance.

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Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Kirsten Gillibrand (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New York

Gillibrand is no longer running for president. Believes a Medicare-for-all system will eventually displace the private insurance industry. In a February interview on “Lovett or Leave It,” when asked if ending private insurance should be a goal for the party, Gillibrand said it “is a goal, and an urgent goal.” She said as the nation moves toward a Medicare-for-all system, “what’s going to happen is you’re going to create enormous competition and I don’t think for-profit providers are going to be able to compete … Through competition you will get to single payer.”

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Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “I’m open to the idea of supplemental insurance programs for additional health-care benefits for those who want it,” Williamson told The Post. “However, I want high-quality Medicare for All coverage for all Americans, to the point where supplemental coverage shouldn’t be a requirement.”

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Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Andrew Yang (Dropped out)

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is no longer running for president. “I believe that private health insurance should be allowed to continue to serve those who want to opt out of the public option,” Yang told The Post. “However, I expect the public option to be able to out-compete the private options and that most private options would disappear over time.”

Dec. 27: “We need to provide health care to all Americans, but I would not get rid of all private insurance plans immediately, because millions of Americans are on those plans, enjoy those plans, in many cases negotiated for those plans in lieu of higher wages. The goal of the government has to demonstrate that we can out-compete the private insurance plans and squeeze them out of the market over time.”

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Andrew Yang
Yang

We don’t need to get rid of it

We don’t need to get rid of it

Joe Biden

Former vice president

Biden’s health-care plan said he plans to improve the Affordable Care Act “instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance.”

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Joe Biden
Biden

Michael Bennet (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet is no longer running for president. “Now, what Democrats are saying is, 'If you like your insurance, we're going to take it away from you,' from 180 million people that get their insurance from their employer and like it or 20 million Americans who are on Medicare Advantage, and love it," Bennet said on NBC's Meet the Press. "That seems like a bad opening offer for me."

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg is no longer running for president. “I think you can have Medicare for all for people that are uncovered, but to replace the entire private system where companies provide health care for their employees would bankrupt us for a very long time,” Bloomberg said in Jan. 2019.

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Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. When asked by a reporter if he would get rid of private health care, Booker said: “Even countries that have vast access to publicly offered health care still have private health care, so no.”

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Cory Booker
Booker

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “Nearly 170 million Americans have private insurance through their employers,” Bullock told The Post. “We can do a lot to increase access and lower costs without eliminating a system that’s working for a lot of people. We have to move forward in a way that doesn’t undermine the personal health insurance of whichmany Americans have come to depend.”

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Steve Bullock
Bullock

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. During a campaign event in Des Moines, Castro said he supports Medicare-for-all but wants people to have the option for supplemental private insurance, the Des Moines Register reported.

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Julian Castro
Castro

John Delaney (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney is no longer running for president. “I think eliminating private insurance would ultimately be bad for patients and bad for the quality of our health-care system overall,” Delaney told The Post. “My universal health-care plan guarantees all Americans coverage, but also allows people to purchase supplemental plans.”

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John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard is no longer running for president. “Medicare-for-all would provide quality health care for every single American, at a cheaper price to every one of us,” Gabbard said in an interview on ABC’s “The View.” “If folks want to get their own private insurance at the same time, they’re free to do that.”

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Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Kamala D. Harris (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, California

Harris is no longer running for president. Harris released a new health-care plan days before the second Democratic debate. “[W]e will allow private insurers to offer Medicare plans as a part of this system that adhere to strict Medicare requirements on costs and benefits,” the plan said. “Essentially, we would allow private insurance to offer a plan in the Medicare system ... If they want to play by our rules, they can be in the system. If not, they have to get out.” It is unclear how employer-sponsored plans would fare under her proposal. Previously she said during a January CNN town hall that she would “eliminate” private insurers. Harris provided conflicting responses on this question during and after the first debate.

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Kamala Harris
Harris

John Hickenlooper (Dropped out)

Former governor, Colorado

Hickenlooper is no longer running for president. “I probably would oppose Medicare-for-all just because there are over 150 million people, Americans who have some form of private insurance through their business, and the vast majority of them are happy with that," Hickenlooper said on MSNBC.

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John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper

Jay Inslee (Dropped out)

Governor, Washington state

Inslee is no longer running for president. "I don't think it's necessary," Inslee told CNN when asked about eliminating private insurance.

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Jay Inslee
Inslee

Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar is no longer running for president. Klobuchar prefers offering a Medicaid-type plan, embracing a bill to create a Medicaid-based public health-care option on state insurance marketplaces.

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Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Seth Moulton (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Massachusetts

Moulton is no longer running for president. “I want Medicare, or better, a more modern version of Medicare, to be available to everybody. But I’m not going to force you off your private health if you like it,” Moulton told Good Morning America.

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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. During a visit to Iowa, he said he supports the Medicare for America bill from Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). “What it does, it responds to the fact that so many Americans have said, ‘I like my employer-based insurance. I want to keep it,’” he said. “It complements what already exists with the need that we have for millions of Americans who do not have insurance and ensures that each of them can enroll in Medicare.”

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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.

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Deval Patrick
Patrick

Tim Ryan (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Ohio

Ryan is no longer running for president. “I personally don’t believe we need to take people off their private health insurance if they enjoy it,” Ryan told CNN.

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Tim Ryan
Ryan

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. “It remains during the transition of choice by the public option as we cannot immediately remove 255 million Americans who depend upon healthcare in some way, today. As the transition toward single payer is done by this transition via the public option, private insurance remains for those who opt for it,” Sestak told The Post.

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Joe Sestak
Sestak

Tom Steyer (Dropped out)

Billionaire activist

Steyer is no longer running for president. “I don’t believe that we need to tell people who are happy with their private health insurance that they can’t stay with it,” Steyer told The Post. “We can develop a public option that will provide better care at a lower cost so that people will choose that option.”

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Tom Steyer
Steyer

Eric Swalwell (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, California

Swalwell is no longer running for president. “Americans should have a choice between coverage provided by private companies and that provided by the government,” Swalwell told The Post. “While I do not want to bring an end to private insurance, I support coverage for all, which would be a public option that would drive down the pressure on the private insurers and ultimately lead to more affordable plans for all Americans.”

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Eric Swalwell
Swalwell

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Background Some current Medicare-for-all proposals, including those from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) virtually eliminate private insurance by providing basic coverage for prescriptions, medical, vision, dental and mental health care. Private insurance would exist only for supplemental care outside of these basic provisions.

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.