Schumer stops short of backing Sanders' 'Medicare for all' plan

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has become the latest Democrat to express skepticism over 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for all" plan – saying the Vermont senator's idea is just one of several proposals the party is considering to strengthen health care in the United States.

Schumer’s comments come a day after Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats,  launched a revamped "Medicare for All" plan that would replace job-based and individual private health insurance with a government-run plan that guarantees coverage for all with no premiums, deductibles and only minimal copays for certain services. In this latest version, Sanders added coverage for long-term care.

The Vermont independent's package is supported by many liberals and several other presidential contenders, but moderates fear it's an easy target for Republicans to characterize as a socialist path to huge tax increases.

And health care seems likely to be a major issue in next year's presidential and congressional elections.

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Asked about Sanders' plan, Schumer said Democrats are united in the desire to improve health care, lower costs and create universal coverage.

"Different Democrats have different ways to get there," Schumer said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also has sounded skeptical about Sanders' plan.

Republicans call Medicare for all Exhibit A in their own 2020 narrative depicting a radicalized Democratic Party steering toward "socialism."

Several independent studies of Medicare for all have estimated that it would dramatically increase government spending on health care, in the range of about $25 trillion to $35 trillion or more over a decade's time (though a recent estimate from the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst suggests that the cost could be much lower).

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Sanders and his supporters say it's a matter of principle.

"Health care is a human right, not a privilege," he declared as he unveiled his bill at a Capitol Hill event crowded with nurses and advocates for patients. Fellow Democratic presidential candidate and co-sponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York also spoke, saying "this has to become the next social safety net."

The Associated Press contributed reporting to this piece.