What Do You Want to Know About Medicare-for-All?

Democrats keep touting the policy. We’ll help you understand what it actually means.

Bill Clark//CQ Roll Call

As the Democratic presidential hopefuls descend on Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina to begin stumping for the 2020 nomination, there’s one policy idea that has become increasingly central to their early campaign promises: Medicare-for-all. 

“You can provide health care to everybody in a variety of ways, that’s true,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime proponent of single-payer health care, said last week in South Carolina. “To my mind, the most cost-effective way is through expanding Medicare.” Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and others have also attached their names to the idea. “We need to have Medicare-for-all, that’s just the bottom line,” Harris said at an Iowa town hall earlier this year, not shying away from the implication that it would eliminate private insurance companies.

Creating some sort of single-payer health care system for the US isn’t a new idea, with various proposals dating back to the Truman administration. But many Democrats shied away from the proposal in recent presidential campaigns. In 2016, Hillary Clinton and her campaign staff regularly attacked Sanders’ stance on Medicare-for-All, with Clinton terming it a “risky plan” when she campaigned in Iowa. Back when he was running in 2008, Barack Obama would always say that single-payer might be better in theory, but that it was more practical to build improve the health system already in place. “A lot of people work for insurance companies, a lot of people work for HMOs. You’ve got a whole system of institutions that have been set up,” he said. “People don’t have time to wait.”

Things have changed rapidly since the last presidential campaign, with most of the 2020 contenders signaling their support for some expansion of universal health care. But while Medicare-for-All has picked up steam among Democrats over the past two years, there are still a lot of details to be hashed out about what that phrase exactly entails. What sort of benefits a plan might cover? How quickly would it be rolled out? Would people just be given the option to opt-into Medicare, or would they be automatically enrolled while all private insurance is made illegal? How have other countries implemented single-payer health care?

We want to help you understand the issue: What questions do you have about Medicare-for-All and how it would work? Let us know in the form below, send an email to talk@motherjones.com, or leave us a voicemail at (510) 519-MOJO. We’ll compile some of the best queries, then ask you to vote for one. Our reporters will answer the winning question in a follow-up story.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.