Where the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates stand on health care issues

Topics: Finance, Costs and Prices, Health Care Reform, Industry, Prescription Drugs, Insurance, Medicare, Health Plans/Insurance Companies, Patient Populations, Women, Mental Health, Politics and Policy, Elections, Federal Government, Health Care Legislation, Public Health, Substance Use, Illicit Drugs, Prescription Drug Misuse

*Editor's note: This story was updated Dec. 4, 2019.

Over the past few months, several candidates have announced they are seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020—and most have indicated health care will be one of their major priorities.

American Health Line will update this document throughout the 2020 presidential primary season to show where the prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls stand on health care.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) on May 2 announced he is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. Bennet was appointed to the Senate in 2009 to replace then-Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who had been appointed as secretary of the Department of Interior. Bennet has held the Senate seat since his appointment. Bennet has said his campaign will focus on health care and the economy, and his time in the Senate has given insight into his health care positions.

  • Abortion rights: According to the Associated Press, Bennet during his 2010 Senate race criticized his Republican opponent for opposing abortion rights. Bennet has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which guaranteed U.S. women's right to abortion care. He also has said he supports repealing the so-called "Hyde Amendment," which prohibits certain federal funds from being used for abortion services, and the so-called "Helms Amendment," which bars foreign assistance funds from being used to pay for abortion care "as a method of family planning." Bennet also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, repealing the so-called "global gag rule" that bans U.S. aid to organizations that provide or promote abortion abroad, requiring federal review of state-approved abortion laws, making medication abortion available over the counter, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Bennet has said he thinks Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) so-called "Medicare-for-All" proposal—which largely would eliminate private health insurance and, over a four-year period, would expand Medicare to cover all U.S. residents—is "a bad opening offer" for health reform, Vox reports. Instead, Bennet and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) last month introduced the Medicare-X Choice Act of 2019, which would create a public option health plan that would use Medicare payment rates and networks.
  • Marijuana legalization: Bennet in February co-sponsored a bill to legalize marijuana at the federal level, Axios reports.
  • Paid medical leave: According to CNN, an aide to Bennet has said Bennet's campaign will focus on working to enact paid family and medical leave.
  • Prescription drug prices: Bennet has called for increased transparency in the prescription drug market as a way to lower U.S. drug prices. Bennet last month was among a bipartisan group of senators who introduced legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug prices by bolstering oversight of FDA's citizen petition process, which the senators said could help increase competition in the prescription drug market.
  • Rural health care: Bennet in July released a rural health plan that aims to reduce racial disparities in maternal mortality and calls for expanding Medicaid coverage for new mothers, bolstering resources for home health and telehealth services in Medicare, adding certain non-medical benefits to Medicare and Medicaid coverage, and loan forgiveness programs for doctors and nurses who practice in rural areas. Bennet's plan also calls from increasing funding for community and disproportionate-share hospitals.
  • Substance misuse: According to Axios, Bennet co-sponsored the First Step Act bill (S 3629) in 2016, which "reduced minimum sentences for some repeat non-violent drug crimes." Bennet also has co-sponsored legislation intended to expedite approval of non-opioid pain treatments, as well as treatments for substance use disorders.

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) 

Former Vice President Joe Biden on April 25 announced that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Biden served in the U.S. Senate for about 40 years, and served as vice president under former President Barack Obama. His time in both positions offers insight into where he stands on various health care issues.

  • Abortion rights: Biden generally supports abortion rights and has said he backs the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. A campaign spokesperson in May said, "Biden firmly believes that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and should not be overturned," and Biden would support legislation to codify the protections granted by the decision. However, Biden "has gone back and forth on abortion in the past and has publicly struggled to reconcile his political positions with his Catholic faith," the New York Times reports. According to the Times, "As recently as 2008, [Biden] said he believed life began at conception, though he emphasized that this was a personal view and that he did not think it was appropriate to impose it on others through abortion restrictions." Still, Biden has voted against federal funding for abortion and supported the "global gag rule" when former President Ronald Reagan enacted it, the Times reports. In addition, Biden in 1981 authored an amendment to prohibit federal "foreign aid for abortion-related biomedical research," according to the Times, and also formerly supported the so-called "Hyde Amendment." However, Biden in June said he no longer supports the amendment. Biden has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover contraceptives and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care funding: Biden has criticized proposals included in Trump's budget proposal that would cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid. Biden also has advocated for increased federal funding for medical research, and led the Obama administration's cancer "moonshot" initiative.
  • Health care reform: Biden on Monday unveiled a health reform plan that aims to build and protect the Affordable Care Act. Biden's plan would create a so called "public option" health plan that would be available to all Americans, including those with employer-sponsored coverage. Biden's proposal also would eliminate the current income cap for receiving federal subsidies to offset the cost of exchange plans and would increase the amount of subsidies enrollees could receive.   
  • Marijuana legalization: Biden has long opposed legalizing marijuana, and has called the substance a "gateway drug," Axios reports. While serving as vice president, Biden said he supports decriminalizing marijuana instead of legalizing the drug.
  • Prescription drug prices: Biden in his health reform plan proposed reducing the cost of prescription drugs by repealing current federal law that prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices with drug manufacturers. In addition, his plan would allow patients to purchase drugs from foreign countries, eliminate tax breaks on pharma's ad spending, create a system to link prices for new specialty drugs to those in foreign countries, and tie price increases the general inflation rate.
  • Rural health care: Biden in July released a plan focused on bolstering rural parts of the United States through economic initiatives and investments and by expanding access to health care, CNN reports. Under the plan, Biden calls for building on the Affordable Care Act as a way to ensure rural U.S. residents can access health coverage and care. Biden's plan also calls for increasing funding for community health centers, medical residencies in rural areas, rural hospitals, and telehealth services.
  • Substance misuse: According to the Washington Post's "The Fix," Biden in 1988 supported legislation that lengthened criminal sentences for drug charges. However, Biden earlier this year called the legislation a "mistake." He said, "It was a big mistake when it was made," adding, "It's trapped an entire generation."
  •  Vaccines: According to BuzzFeed News, Biden in the past has expressed support for vaccines. In 2016, he said, "I look forward to the day when your grandchildren and my grandchildren and their children show up at the office to get their physical to start school and get a shot for measles and they get a vaccine that affects significant causes of cancer."
  • Veterans' health care: Biden in November released a plan that calls for ensuring veterans have access to quality health care that address their specific needs at Veterans Affairs facilities, lowering the suicide rate among veterans, increasing veterans' access to care in rural areas, and improving health care for women veterans, among other things.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D)

Bloomberg in November announced that had entered the race for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. According to Politico, Bloomberg is known for "his eponymous financial news company," which has made him "one of the richest people in the world." He also served as New York City's mayor for three terms from 2002 to 2013. Bloomberg is known for launching various health-focused initiatives during his time as New York City's mayor. Here's where he stands on some key health care issues. 

  • Abortion rights: Bloomberg has donated to groups that advocate for women's right to access abortion.
  • Health care reform: According to Axios, Bloomberg does not support Medicare-for-All proposals. Bloomberg in a video launching his campaign touted a health reform option in which "everyone without health insurance is guaranteed to get it and everyone who likes theirs can go ahead and keep it." Bloomberg has expressed support for the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.
  • Marijuana legalization: Bloomberg during a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy earlier this year called efforts to legalize marijuana "perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done," Newsweek reports. In reference to efforts to legalize marijuana, Bloomberg said, "Last year, in 2017, 72,000 Americans [ovderdosed] on drugs. In 2018, more people than that are OD-ing on drugs, have OD'd on drugs. And today, incidentally, we are trying to legalize another addictive narcotic, which is perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done. We've got to fight that, and that's another thing that Bloomberg Philanthropies will work on it in public health."
  • Paid medical leave: Bloomberg in 2013 vetoed a bill that would have required many businesses in New York City to provide workers with paid sick leave, NBC New York reports. Bloomberg said he supported the bill's aim but was concerned about the strain the measure could place on businesses.
  • Public health: As New York City's mayor, Bloomberg backed an ultimately unsuccessful proposal to ban the sale of certain large sugary drinks in the city. Bloomberg also proposed legislation to ban public displays of tobacco products, strengthen penalties on retailers who evade tobacco taxes, and require retailers to raise the prices of certain tobacco products in the city. He implemented bans on smoking in restaurants and bars in the city. According to Politico, Bloomberg on Monday criticized Trump for delaying action to ban sales of flavored e-cigarettes in the United States, and Bloomberg has donated money from this charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, to curb flavored e-cigarette use. In addition, Bloomberg has championed initiatives to reduce salt contents in pre-packaged and restaurant foods and ban unhealthy foods at hospitals in New York City, as well as efforts to implement new prescription painkiller restrictions. Further, Bloomberg in 2016 gave $300 million to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to create the Bloomberg American Health Initiative—which focuses on adolescent health, environmental threats, gun violence, obesity, and substance misuse—and has donated millions of dollars to support efforts to implement taxes on sugary beverages throughout the United States.
  • Vaccines: Bloomberg has spoken in favor of vaccinations and in 2013 implemented a policy to require all children ages five and younger who attend preschools licensed by New York City to receive an influenza vaccination.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) on Feb. 1 announced he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination—and health care is expected to play a role in his campaign. Here's where he stands on health care-related issues.

  • Abortion rights and reproductive health: Booker in May said, if elected president, he would create a White House Office of Reproductive Freedom that would be tasked with "coordinating and affirmatively advancing abortion rights and access to reproductive health care." Booker has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Booker also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, requiring federal review of state-approved abortion laws, making medication abortion available over the counter, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Booker in September 2018 voiced his support for Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal. Booker co-sponsored Sanders' 2017 Medicare-for-All legislation. However, Booker in May said he would take incremental steps to reform the U.S. health system if he is elected president. "I stand by supporting Medicare for All," Booker told CNN, adding, "But I'm also that pragmatist that when I'm chief executive of the country ... I'm going to find the immediate things that we can do." Booker said, "I'm telling you right now, we're not going to pull health insurance from 150 million Americans who have private insurance who like their insurance."
  • Health disparities: Booker in October released his Study, Treat, Observe, and Prevent (STOP) Neglected Diseases of Poverty Act, which aims to address a variety of diseases Booker said contribute to "massive social and health disparities" nationwide—including Chagas disease, hookworm, and dengue fever, all of which disproportionately affect low-income areas, The Hill reports. The legislation would set up a task force that would report to the HHS secretary and is focused on preventing, diagnosing, and tracking the diseases. The legislation also would require HHS to develop educational programs about the diseases and promote research to find affordable tools and treatments.
  • Long-term care costs: Booker in July unveiled a plan to address the cost of long-term health care for seniors by allowing individuals who exceed the asset and/or income limits for Medicaid assistance for long-term care services to buy into the program, implementing a tax credit that would provide a credit of up to $4,000 to qualifying caregivers, mandating that long-term care service and support staff be paid at least $15 per hour and be offered certain benefits, raising asset limits for Medicaid assistance for long-term care services and supports, and requiring all states to offer home-based and community-based services.
  • Marijuana legalization: Booker in February introduced a bill that would remove the federal ban on marijuana. Booker said the bill, called the Marijuana Justice Act, "seeks to reverse decades of ... unfair, unjust, and failed policy by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances and making it legal at the federal level."
  • Maternal mortality: Booker and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) in May introduced legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage for comprehensive prenatal, labor and postpartum care in an effort to lower maternal mortality rates, particularly among black women.
  • Prescription drug prices: Booker, who has agreed to no longer accept campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies, has co-sponsored legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug prices by allowing prescription drug imports from Canada into the United States. Booker, along with Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), in November introduced legislation that would establish a new federal agency to regulate prescription drug prices.
  • Vaccines: Booker in May told BuzzFeed News, "First and foremost, vaccines are proven to reduce the incidence of terrible disease. Vaccines keep people safe and healthy. We need to trust the scientists who work to develop vaccines and the medical professionals who administer them."

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his campaign in January. Buttigieg has not talked in great detail about his health care priorities but he has spoken in depth about one policy issue. Here's where he stands on health care-related issues.

  • Abortion rights: Buttigieg has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Buttigieg also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, requiring federal review of state-approved abortion laws, making medication abortion available over the counter, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Access to care: Buttigieg in December unveiled a plan intended to address disparities in access to health care based on where U.S. residents live, their gender, or their race.
  • Health care reform: Buttigieg in September unveiled his so-called "Medicare for All Who Want It" plan. Unlike other Medicare-for-All proposals, Buttigieg's plan would not eliminate private health insurance and would allow those who choose so to remain enrolled in their employer-sponsored or other private health plans. Instead, the plan would create a new public coverage option to compete with private plans. According to Buttigieg's proposal, the new public health plan would be affordable and would cover the ACA's essential health benefits. In an effort to achieve universal health coverage, Buttigieg proposed automatically enrolling eligible uninsured individuals into either their state's Medicaid program or the new public option. Those who prefer to enroll in a private plan could opt out of the coverage, according to the proposal. Buttigieg's proposal also calls for expanding access to federal subsidies for exchange plans and setting new limits on premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The plan also includes proposals aimed at addressing so-called "surprise" medical bills, and calls for restricting out-of-network charges to twice Medicare rates.
  • Long-term care costs: Buttigeig under a proposal released in November would provide certain U.S. residents with a stipend intended to help cover long-term care costs.
  • Marijuana legalization: Buttigieg's campaign website states that legalizing marijuana would be a key part of his plans to reform the United States' criminal justice system.
  • Mental health and substance use disorders: Buttigieg in August unveiled a proposal aimed at bolstering mental health and addressing substance use disorders. The proposal calls for penalizing health plans if they do not cover treatment for mental health conditions and substance use disorders, expanding access to treatment for opioid-related substance use disorders, supporting re-entry programs for individuals with mental health conditions and substance use disorders, expanding community resources to improve mental health and substance use disorder services.
  • Prescription drug prices: Buttigieg in October released a plan intended to lower U.S. prescription drug costs that calls for allowing federal officials to negotiate the prices of drugs covered by some public health plans, capping some U.S. residents' out-of-pocket costs for drugs, and boosting competition, innovation, and transparent in the U.S. prescription drug market.
  • Rural health care: Buttigieg in August unveiled a proposal intended to improve access to care for Americans living in rural parts of the country and Native American tribes. The proposal calls for implementing a public option health plan to ensure all American have health coverage and bolstering telehealth and other technologies. The proposal also aims to attract and train more providers to practice in rural areas and stop hospitals closures, as well as strengthen the Indian Health Service. The proposal calls for a particular focus on improving maternal, mental health, primary, and substance use disorder care.
  • Vaccines: A spokesperson for Buttigieg in May told Buzzfeed News, "The law of the land for more than a century has been that states may enforce mandatory vaccination for public safety to prevent the spread of a dangerous disease. [Buttigieg] does support some exceptions, except during a public health emergency to prevent an outbreak."
  • Veterans' health care: Buttigieg, a veteran who served in the Afghanistan War, in November unveiled a plan intended to ensure all veterans have access to affordable and comprehensive health care and streamline veterans' access to care, support wounded veterans, guarantee veterans' access to mental health services, and prevent veteran suicides.

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro

Julian Castro, who served as secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama's administration, in Jaunary announced he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Since the announcement, Castro has indicated his stance on a number of health care issues, including support for a universal health care system and efforts to lower prescription drug prices. Here's where he stands on health care-related issues.

  • Abortion rights: Castro has said he supports legal access to abortion care, and has opposed a Texas law that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and limits abortion access. Castro has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Castro also has expressed support for funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Castro during a recent event with Iowa Democrats said, "What you're going to hear from me is that … I support universal health care." Castro has expressed his support for Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal, which largely would eliminate private health insurance and, over a four-year period, would expand Medicare to cover all U.S. residents. He said, "Medicare should be there for everybody in this country. It's time for Medicare for all, universal health care for every single American." Castro has said he would consider funding Medicare's expansion by raising taxes on U.S. corporations and the wealthiest "0.05, 0.5, or 1%" of U.S. residents.
  • Marijuana legalization: Buttigieg's campaign website states that legalizing marijuana would be a key part of his plans to reform the United States' criminal justice system.
  • Prescription drug prices: Castro also has criticized the effect drugmakers have had on health care costs and called for efforts to lower prescription drug prices. Though so far he has not indicated how he would seek to lower prices.

Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.)

Former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in July 2017, and has discussed his proposal for implementing a universal health care system in the United States. Here's where he stands on health care-related issues.

  • Abortion rights: Delaney has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde Amendment and the global gag rule. Delaney also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover contraception and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Delaney has said he does not support Sander's Medicare-for-All proposal, calling it a "plan that will be very bad for [health care] quality and cost, and then ultimately be bad for access." Instead, Delaney has proposed a new public health plan that would cover all U.S. residents under age 65, including those currently enrolled in Medicaid. The plan would cover basic medical services comparable to those covered under the ACA's essential health benefits. Employers would be allowed to offer and U.S. residents would be allowed to purchase supplemental health insurance that would cover additional services. Delaney said the cost of the new health plan would be covered by a shared federal-and-state payment system and by terminating tax breaks for employer health benefits.
  • Vaccines: Delaney in May told BuzzFeed News he thinks vaccines are "necessary," but that exemptions to vaccines should be considered on the basis of a diseases' particular nature.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) in January also announced her candidacy for president, and has said bolstering U.S. residents' access to health care is one of her main priorities. Here's where she stands on health care-related issues.

  • Abortion rights: Gabbard has expressed support for abortion rights and has voted against legislation to ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Gabbard has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde Amendment. Gabbard also has expressed support for funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Gabbard co-sponsored legislation in the House that would expand health coverage to all U.S. residents. The expansion would be funded by increasing taxes on the 5% of U.S. residents with the highest incomes, establishing a progressive excise payroll and self-employment tax, creating a tax on income that does not come from employers, and taxing stock and bond transactions.
  • Marijuana legalization: Gabbard has introduced two bills focusing on marijuana. One, called the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2019, would allow states to regulate marijuana as they choose and deschedule the drug as a controlled substance. The other bill, called the Marijuana Data Collection Act of 2019, would require both medicinal and non-medicinal state marijuana programs to study the programs' effects on a variety of issues, including public health, substance misuse, and employment.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in February announced she was joining the swath of Democrats seeking the party's nomination for president, and she indicated health care will be one of her major priorities. Klobuchar has spoken about proposals to implement a universal health care system in the United States, among other health care issues. Here's where she stands on health care-related issues.

  • Abortion rights: Klobuchar has said she believes abortion is a decision that should remain between a woman and her physician. Klobuchar co-sponsored the Women’s Health Protection Act, which bars states from establishing restrictions on abortions. Klobuchar has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Klobuchar also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover contraceptives, requiring federal review of state-approved abortion laws, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Unlike many other Democrats currently running for president, Klobuchar has not indicated her support for Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal. Klobuchar has said she supports taking a more gradual approach toward implementing universal health coverage in the United States, noting about 50% of U.S. residents have private health insurance.
  • Marijuana legalization: Klobuchar in February said she "support[s] the legalization of marijuana and believe[s] that states should have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders."
  • Mental health and substance use disorders: Klobuchar on May 3 introduced a $100 billion plan aimed at improving access to mental health care and services to address substance use disorders. In addition, Klobuchar in July proposed increasing U.S. suicide prevention efforts and expanding access to depression treatments.
  • Prescription drug prices: Klobuchar in July announced a plan to address prescription drug costs by allowing the federal government to negotiate Medicare Part D drug prices, allowing U.S. residents to order prescription drugs from Canada and other countries, and cracking down on so-called "pay-for-delay" agreements
  • Seniors' health care costs: Klobuchar in July also announced proposals intended to lower health care costs for seniors. Klobuchar proposed creating a new senior fraud prevention office to prevent elder abuse; expanding Medicare-covered services for Alzheimer's disease; expanding Medicare coverage for dental, hearing, and vision services; investing in research to develop a cure for Alzheimer's by 2025; and providing additional resources for the caregivers.
  • Prescription drug prices: Klobuchar and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in January introduced a bill called the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act of 2019, which aims to address high prescription drug prices by allowing U.S. residents to import drugs from Canada. Klobuchar also has pushed for federal lawmakers to approve legislation that would allow CMS to negotiate prices for drugs covered under Medicare Part D. In addition, Klobuchar has introduced legislation that would allow the federal government to prevent drugmakers from entering so-called pay-for-delay agreements, under which brand-name drugmakers pay generic drugmakers to delay when generic versions of their products enter the market.
  • Vaccines: According to BuzzFeed News, Klobuchar in April signed a Senate resolution touting the importance of vaccines.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D)

Patrick, age 63, in November officially entered the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Patrick served as Massachusetts' governor for two terms, from 2007 to 2015. Prior to his time as governor, Patrick served as assistant attorney general for civil rights under former President Bill Clinton's administration, general counsel at Texaco, and executive vice president at Coca-Cola. Since leaving the governor's office, Patrick worked as a managing director at Bain Capital, and since September has served as a political contributor on CBS News.

  • Abortion: As governor, Patrick signed a law that gave police the authority to remove anti-abortion protesters from entrances to clinics if they were blocking access to the building.
  • Health reform: As Massachusetts governor, Patrick implemented the 2006 health care reform plan launched by his predecessor, Republican Mitt Romney, that later served as a model for the ACA. However, Patrick's administration issued an apology during the launch of its ACA exchange website, which crashed and created a backlog of more than 50,000 paper applications. Patrick last year called Medicare for All a "terrific idea," but only if it is implemented "alongside various of the private options that are available" under the ACA. As governor, Patrick also signed legislation that linked health care costs increases in the state to the rate of growth of the state's economy.
  • Opioid crisis: As governor, Patrick signed a law that requires insurers to provide up to 14 days of inpatient care for people with substance use disorders.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sanders in February announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, and said his campaign will focus on various health-related initiatives.

Aides to Sanders said his presidential campaign will focus on a number of his health-related proposals, including promoting his Medicare-for-All proposal, lowering U.S. drug prices, legalizing marijuana, and ensuring workers have access to paid medical leave.

Sanders' recent proposals and past campaigns can offer insight into the proposals he might put forth during his campaign, as well as into where he stands on other major health care issues.

  • Abortion rights: Sanders during his 2016 presidential primary race against former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, implied that he would not support any restrictions on abortion care. Sanders in May said, if he is elected president, he would only nominate Supreme Court justices who support the Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Sanders also has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Sanders has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, requiring federal review of state-approved abortion laws, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Sanders in 2017 first introduced legislation that would implement his Medicare-for-All proposal, which would largely eliminate private health insurance and, over a four-year period, would expand Medicare to cover all U.S. residents. Sanders in 2019 unveiled a new version of the legislation that also includes long-term care coverage. In addition, Sanders in July proposed a plan intended as a supplement to his Medicare-for-All proposal that aims to increase the number of black health care providers, The Hill reportsFurther, Sanders in August said, if his proposal becomes law, he would require companies with union-negotiated health plans to renegotiate contracts, and any savings the companies generate by moving workers to Medicare for All's new government-run plan must be passed back to workers "in the form of increased wages or other benefits." Sanders in November said, if he is elected president, he will introduce legislation to implement his Medicare-for-All plan within his first week in office.
  • Hospital closures: Sanders in July announced that he plans to "very soon" introduce legislation to "establish a $20 billion emergency trust fund to help states and local communities purchase hospitals that are in financial distress." Sanders said, "In my view, any time a hospital is put up for sale in America, the local community or the state must have the right to buy it first with emergency financial assistance."
  • Marijuana legalization: Sanders has said he supports full legalization of marijuana, and is co-sponsoring Booker's Marijuana Justice Act. In addition, Sanders in October announced that, if elected president, he would issue an executive order within his first 100 days in office directing that marijuana be removed from the government's list of controlled federal substances. Sanders also released a legislative plan that would legalize marijuana and expunge the records of individuals who've been convicted of marijuana-related crimes, as well as invest tax revenue from the legal sales of marijuana into communities most effected by the enforcement of marijuana laws. The proposed plan also calls for a $10 billion program to invest in rural and urban marijuana growing operations.
  • Prescription drug prices: Sanders has proposed the federal government take aggressive action to address high U.S. drug prices. Sanders, along with Booker and Harris, in November introduced legislation that would establish a new federal agency to regulate prescription drug prices. Sanders in January introduced a legislative package intended to lower prescription drug costs that includes three bills:
  • The Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act (HR 2228), which would allow U.S. residents, pharmacists, and wholesalers to import lower-cost drugs from Canada and other developed countries;
  • The Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (S 41), which would allow the HHS Secretary to negotiate prices for drugs covered under Medicare Part D; and
  • The Prescription Drug Relief Act, which would set U.S. drug prices based on the median prices in Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and require FDA to approve generic versions of the drugs—regardless of whether the drugs are protected by patents—if drugmakers refuse to lower prices to meet the new target.
  • Substance use disorders: Sanders in 2018 introduced a bill that would impose penalties on drug manufacturers and pharmaceutical executives in cases of deceptive marketing or illegal distribution of prescription opioids. According to a summary of the bill, the measure would prohibit pharmaceutical companies and their employees from disseminating direct-to-consumer advertising that falsely suggests opioids have no addictive qualities or risks. Pharmaceutical companies that violate that policy would be fined 25% of the profits derived from their opioid products. In addition, executives would face criminal liability and could face fines equal to the executive's compensation package or a minimum of 10 years in prison. Sanders also has endorsed supervised injection sites, also known as "safe injection sites," which allow individuals who misuse drugs to do so under the care of health care professionals and without risk of arrest.
  • Vaccines: A spokesperson for Sanders in May told Buzzfeed News that Sanders "believes that vaccinations work and are crucial to overall public health. Instances of serious but preventable diseases have been significantly reduced and many have been eliminated altogether as a result of vaccines."
  • Veterans' health care: Sanders in November released a plan calling for fully funding VA so it has the staff and infrastructure need to provide care to veterans, ensuring veterans can access care at VA health centers, guaranteeing veterans have comprehensive dental coverage, and expanding VA's mental health, long-term care, and caregiver services.

Tom Steyer, billionaire and environmentalist

Tom Steyer, a billionaire and environmentalist who has supported campaigns to impeach Trump, in July announced that he is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. According to Vox, Steyerwho has never before run for a public officehas been weighing a presidential run since last year, when he unveiled his so-called "5 Rights" campaign platform. The platform, as well as other proposals Steyer has supported, lend some insight into his health care views. 

  • Abortion rights: Steyer in 2017 announced that he would only support candidates who support abortion rights, Politico reports. Steyer has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Steyer also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, requiring federal review of state-approved abortion laws, making medication abortion available over the counter, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care funding: According to Politico, Steyer has supported proposals to raise California's tobacco tax in order to help fund the state's Medicaid program.
  • Prescription drug prices: According to Politico, Steyer in June 2017 backed a California proposal (SB 17) to require drug manufactures to give state officials notice of planned price increases.
  • Universal health coverage: Steyer's "5 Rights" campaign platform included a call for universal health coverage in the United States. Steyer has expressed support for transitioning the United States to a single-payer health system, Vox reports

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in late December announced she had launched an exploratory committee to fill key staff positions for a campaign to run for president in 2020. Media reports have indicated Warren's bid for president would focus on health care issues such as prescription drug prices, health care reform, and the opioid epidemic. Here's where she stands on health care-related issues.

  • Abortion rights: Warren in May said Congress should pass legislation to protect abortion rights by codifying the protections granted under the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and barring states from implementing abortion restrictions. Warren also said Congress should repeal the so-called "Hyde Amendment," which prohibits federal funding for abortion services, and overturn efforts by the Trump administration to exclude Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X family planning funds. Warren also has expressed support for repealing the Helms amendment and the global gag rule, requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, and making medication abortion available over the counter.
  • Health care reform: In March 2018, Warren backed a bill intended to bolster consumer protections in the private health insurance market. Warren has said she supports Sander's Medicare-for-All proposal and co-sponsored Sanders' 2017 Medicare-for-All bill. In November, Warren released a proposal detailing how she would pay for Medicare-for-All plan that, among other things, calls for new and higher taxes on employers, certain financial transactions and institutions, corporations, and the top 1% of U.S. households based on annual income. The proposal also calls for implementing new policies intended to control prices for hospital and physician services and prescription drugs. Warren in November released a plan to transition the United States to a Medicare-for-All system that calls for first improving Medicare and expanding eligibility for Medicare to Americans older than 50 while implementing a public option health plan for other Americans, and then seeking to have Congress approve complete Medicare-for-All legislation by the third year of her presidency, if elected.
  • Marijuana legalization: Warren has said she supports full legalization of marijuana, and is co-sponsoring Booker's Marijuana Justice Act.
  • Maternal mortality: Warren on April 24 proposed a plan intended to address maternal mortality rates among black women that would give hospitals that lower their maternal mortality rates bonus payments and levy financial penalties on hospitals that don’t lower their maternal mortality rates.
  • Prescription drug prices: Warren's campaign website in September was updated with proposals to control prescription drug prices, which largely reflected policies included in a bill Warren introduced in December 2018 aimed at bolstering competition in the generic drug market. The bill, called the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act, would create a government-run pharmaceutical company that would manufacture generic drugs and allow Medicare to negotiate prices with drugmakers.
  • Rural health care: Warren in August unveiled a proposal intended to bolster access to care in rural parts of the United States by bolstering the Federal Trade Commission's oversight of mergers and anti-competitive practices in the health care industry, expanding broadband access in rural areas for telemedicine, increasing funding for community health centers by 15% over five years, investing additional funding in the National Health Service Corps and Indian Health Service repayment programs, increasing funding to combat the raising Medicare reimbursements rates for rural hospitals opioid epidemic, and raising Medicare reimbursements for rural hospitals.
  • Substance use disorders: Warren in May unveiled a $100 billion proposal to combat the U.S. opioid epidemic that would emphasize employment and evidenced-based treatment for those struggling with substance use disorders, as well as provider training on treatment methods. According to Vox, the $100 billion proposal "matches the level of spending experts have long said is necessary to make a serious dent in the crisis and reverse it." Warren also has endorsed supervised injection sites.
  • Vaccines: Warren in May told Buzzfeed News"The more we do on the front end to ensure that everyone gets access to vaccines, the less we'll see individuals contracting hepatitis A, measles, whooping cough, and all of the other vaccine-preventable diseases. We must make sure there is robust public health funding so people have access to vaccines."
  • Veterans' health care: Warren in November released a plan calling for reducing the suicide rate among veterans by expanding access to mental health services and research, expanding access to care for substance use disorders, supporting wounded veterans and their families and caregivers, and ensuring veterans' access to health coverage via her Medicare-for-All plan.

Marianne Williamson, an author and lecturer

  • Abortion rights: Williamson has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Williamson also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, requiring federal review of state-approved abortion laws, making medication abortion available over the counter, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Marianne Williamson in 2017 called Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal "an idea whose time has come."
  • Marijuana legalization: Williamson in a tweet posted in April wrote that she supports legalizing marijuana and that non-violent offenders imprisoned because of marijuana possession should be released.
  • Vaccines: Williamson during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in July said she is "pro-vaccine" and "pro-medicine," and the "government" ultimately "must come down on the side of public health." But Williamson added, "Any time there is a medical intervention, there is both benefit and risk." She said, "I understand that many areas having to do with food, health, and safety are places where Americans have questions," adding, "And I don't believe that questioning should be squashed."

Andrew Yang, an author and entrepreneur

  • Abortion rights: Yang has expressed support for codifying the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision and repealing the Hyde and Helms amendments and the global gag rule. Yang also has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover abortion care and contraception, making medication abortion available over the counter, and funding Planned Parenthood.
  • Health care reform: Andrew Yang has called for a transition to Medicare-for-All—though it's not clear whether he supports Sanders' proposal.
  • Marijuana legalization: Yang has said he supports legalizing marijuana at the federal level.
  • Vaccines: Yang in May told BuzzFeed News, "I believe the science. Numerous studies indicate no connection between vaccines and autism." He said he supports California's requirements that children must be vaccinated to attend school or day care unless they have a medical exemption.
  • Veterans' health care: Yang in July unveiled a plan intended to bolster health care services for U.S. veterans by ensuring VA would continue to offer veteran-specific health services under a Medicare-for-All system; increasing funding for research on battlefield injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide prevention; expand mental health and substance use disorder services for veterans; increase benefits and salaries for VA health care providers; and allow veterans to seek waivers for medical marijuana treatments.