POLITICS
07/18/2017 10:16 pm ET Updated Jul 18, 2017

Al Gore Calls For Single-Payer Health Care

The former vice president blamed the “morass” surrounding Obamacare passage in 2009 for tanking a cap-and-trade bill that would have curbed pollution.

NEW YORK ― Al Gore called for single-payer health care on Tuesday, one day after a revolt by GOP senators dashed Republican hopes of passing a bill to repeal Obamacare.

Speaking at an event to promote his new climate change documentary, the former vice president said health insurance companies have failed to offer cost-effective coverage, even under the Affordable Care Act. A government-run, single-payer system would provide taxpayer-funded basic health care coverage for everyone.

“The private sector has not shown any ability to provide good, affordable health care for all,” Gore told a packed auditorium at Borough of Manhattan Community College. “I believe we ought to have single-payer health care.”

The statement makes the 2000 presidential nominee one of the first high-profile Democrats to advocate the so-called Medicare-for-all option since Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) failed yet again this week to rally at least 50 of 52 Republican senators to pass a bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. Lacking the votes to flat-out repeal the law without a replacement, President Donald Trump vowed to stand by and allow Obamacare to collapse without the support needed from his agencies. 

Gore blamed what he called the “morass” surrounding the passage of Obamacare in 2009 for tanking a cap-and-trade bill at the time in the Senate. The legislation would have established a limit on planet-warming carbon emissions and a system in which big companies could trade permits to pollute.

“In 2009, President Obama passed it in the House and he succeeded, but it was different when it came to the Senate,” Gore said at the 90-minute talk hosted by The New York Times to publicize his new movie, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” “I think we could have passed it in the Senate in 2009, and we could have gone to the climate negotiation in Copenhagen with a stronger hand, but that’s water under the dam.”

Daniel Zuchnik via Getty Images
Former Vice President Al Gore speaks at a TimesTalks event in Tribeca in New York on Tuesday.

Gore did not include a universal government health care option in his platform during his unsuccessful bid for the White House in 2000. But, in 2002, indicated he “favored” such a policy.

“I think we’ve reached a point where the entire health care system is in impending crisis,” Gore said at an ABC News panel at the time. “I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should begin drafting a single-payer national health insurance plan.”

Progressives, backed by strong grassroots support from the party’s base, moved swiftly to embrace single-payer proposals as the long-anticipated Republican assault on Obamacare began this year. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) launched a “Medicare for all” push in March. In June, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called it “the next step” for Democrats. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) endorsed the policy last month, declaring, “we should have Medicare for all.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), widely considered a contender for the 2020 presidential race, said earlier this month that “as a concept, I’m completely in support of single pay,” but insisted, “we’ve got to work out the details, and the details matter on that.”

Others on the establishment wing of the party have been more reluctant. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) ducked questions about universal government care, saying only that he was “looking at” Sanders’ bill, which hasn’t yet been publicly released. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has refused to sign on to Ellison’s bill, and flatly said “no” when asked in May if single-payer health care should be part of the party’s 2018 platform.

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