Yayyyy, the Democratic candidates running for Congress in Washington's 8th District are beginning to disagree on approaches to policy!
Today Jason Rittereiser announced his support for Medicare for All. You won't catch that exact language (i.e. "Medicare for All") in the essay he posted to his website titled "How I Got To Single-Payer," but he now declares he would, if elected, sign onto the House's version of Bernie Sanders's bill. A majority of House Democrats (122) support the bill, including Bellevue's Adam Smith and Seattle's Pramila Jayapal.
When last I checked in on this issue, Rittereiser more or less swam in the same waters as the two other top contenders in the race, Kim Schrier and Shannon Hader. They all backed some form of "universal healthcare," and they all talked about lowering the age for people to buy into Medicare, but none would sign on specifically to Medicare for All for one reason or another.
So why the sudden flip? "Jason has been talking about Medicare for All for months and wants to ensure that voters in the 8th District understand why he supports a single-payer system," a spokesman for the campaign said. That response doesn't exactly explain why he now supports the policy after months of not supporting the policy, but here we are in the land of politics, where people don't directly answer your questions.
A spokesperson for Schrier says the candidate likes the idea of Medicare for All, but says "Medicare needs some improvements before it is rolled out on such a large scale." Rather than push for Medicare for All, in office Schrier would push for "immediate action to lower healthcare costs and protect the ACA." She'd also advocate for legislation that would allow everyone to buy into Medicare at any age, which, the spokesperson says, "would organically expand the program, and give private insurance companies some much-needed pricing competition."
Hader says she maintains her earlier stance on the issue. "I think the best path to stable, effective single-payer expansion is supporting states to get out in the lead and make it work, and give them the flexibility and support from the federal level to do so," she says. "I'd also like to see more and more folks be able to opt into Medicare at earlier ages and broader markets, see it cover eyes, ears, and teeth for healthy aging and function, and to go from 80 percent to 100 percent coverage."
Polling from Lake Research Partners indicates that Medicare for All is more popular than some might suspect. In early March, LRP polled 600 likely voters in 30 swing districts—including WA-08—and found that 54 percent of people "strongly support" the policy.
Several groups in Washington state are exploring ways to implement single-payer healthcare systems by 2020. Health Care for All-WA has been trying to get a bill through the legislature for some time now, and they appear to have the most viable plan out there. There's a couple hitches, though. They need Congress to pass legislation allowing states to use federal money for state healthcare experiments, and they need a Democratic President to sign the bill. Fingers crossed.