Health care is emerging as the first major campaign issue of the 2020 election. This week Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled his plan to eliminate private health insurance in favor of a government run program.
"Together we are going to end the international embarrassment of the United States of America, our great country, being the only major nation on earth not to guarantee health care to all as a right," Sanders told a cheering crowd on Capitol Hill.
Polls show Sanders as the early leader among Democratic presidential candidates. Now that his big "Medicare for All" plan is out, his primary opponents are either fighting it, or trying to get a piece of the action.
"I don't agree with Senator Sanders' single payer approach," said Democrat presidential candidate John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) took the middle ground saying, "It could be a possibility in the future."
Other candidates are lining up to co-sponsor the bill: Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
"Health care must be a right, not a privilege," said Gillibrand. "This has to become the next social safety net, it has to become something that is there for you no matter what."
But that safety net could prove dangerously expensive. Independent estimates put the plan costing anywhere from $25- to $35-trillion over just 10 years.
"That price is so steep that even left-leaning analysts are quietly admitting that the tax burden is virtually certain to land on the shoulders of the middle class," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed on the Senate floor this week.
McConnell could possibly bring the bill up for a vote to make a point as he did with the Democrats' "Green New Deal". Some Republicans are hopeful he'll do this to get Democrats on the record on the issue.
"I think it deserves a full debate and a vote and see how many Democrats who are co-sponsors actually support it," said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).
"It might be interesting to put a Medicare for all plan on the floor for a vote to see where Democrats really stand," echoed Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
Cramer believes a vote would showcase divisions among Democrats. "They will quickly gravitate toward the middle where reality exists," he continued.
Under the plan, some 180 million Americans would see their private health insurance replaced with a public plan.
"What you end up with is you don't have Medicare for all, you have a bunch of people that have inferior or no coverage," added Cramer.
The White House says Republicans are working on "realistic solutions," and President Trump says a "really great health care plan" will be ready right after the 2020 election.
"I personally think there's some risk in that approach," Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) told CBN News. "We've got to make sure we're articulating something to counterpunch it and be really good at explaining what a disaster that would be."
Braun says he agrees with McConnell that the GOP plan is not ready for primetime, but adds his party has to come up with a fix for a "basketcase" health care system.
"We've got to be unveiling it and building it into 2020 and maybe the formal presentation can be after 2020," added Braun.
Braun believes a Republican plan must differ from Obamacare, but cover pre-existing conditions and allow kids to stay on their parents plans until 26.
"No one should ever go broke because they get sick or have a bad accident," added Braun. "We just have to figure out how to get the industry galvanized to start fixing themselves. I put a lot of the blame on big pharma, big hospitals - just speaking with some ophthalmologists just a moment ago, doctors and providers you know are maybe 25-30% of the health care tab – they're worried you know what life's going to look like a few years down the road."
"So many of these industries have evolved to where big industries dominate the dynamic, and I put the responsibility mostly on them," said Braun.