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Sherrod Brown Seeks Medicare Buy-In Option Now

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Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, listens to questions from members of the media following a meeting with Mary Barra, chief executive officer of General Motors Co., not pictured, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. Barra will have two days of meetings this week with lawmakers from states hit by the automaker's plans to shed as many as 15,000 jobs and cancel production at five plants in North America. Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio (Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/BB)

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown defended his push to allow Americans over 50 years old to buy into Medicare, rather than seeking universal government coverage as some progressive Democrats advocate, and said the odds of him running for president are about 50-50.

“Probably, more or less,” Brown said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I don’t know, 50-50, 51-49.”

(Related: Democratic 2020 Contenders Spar Over Health Policy)

Brown joined Democratic colleagues Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin in introducing a bill Feb. 13 that would allow Americans over 50 years old to buy into Medicare, the federal health insurance program that currently provides coverage for those 65 and older.

While some other leading Democrats are pushing for a “Medicare-for-all” plan with government coverage for all Americans, Brown said on CNN that’s difficult to achieve, and “will take a while.”

“I support universal coverage,” Brown said. “But I want to help people now.”

The senator said he supports preserving private health insurance under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and building on it, not repealing it as Republicans have tried to do for years.

“You don’t wipe it off, wipe it away and then come up with something new that will take time and will cause people angst and anguish to move to a different plan,” he said. “Give people the options now.”

A majority of Americans support a national “Medicare-for-all” system, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released in January. But larger majorities favor more incremental changes to the health care system such as a Medicare buy-in program, the survey found.

Brown, 66, has been visiting states with early presidential caucuses and primaries as part of a listening tour as he considers whether to join what’s already a crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I have been to Iowa, New Hampshire, and we’re going to Nevada and South Carolina in the next couple of weeks,” Brown said on CNN. “We will have a timetable in the next couple, three weeks to make a decision.”

— Read Take Single-Payer Health Care Proposals Seriously: Sally Pipes,on ThinkAdvisor.

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