What would Medicare for All mean? That depends on who’s talking. Broadly speaking, it suggests an end to the dominance of private health insurance in the U.S., a system under which 28.5 million Americans lacked coverage in 2017. (The U.S. is an outlier among rich countries by not having universal health coverage.) Unlike Obamacare, which helps millions of Americans obtain health insurance but maintains the central role of private insurers, Medicare for All could mean a government-run “single-payer” system, such as Canada’s, that does away with private insurance. Or it could mean a government-provided alternative to private insurance plans that Americans could buy into, an idea known as the “public option.” Less drastic offshoots of the idea envision allowing older Americans to buy into Medicare at age 50 — what might be called Medicare for More.
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