Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) spent a good chunk of Tuesday night’s presidential debate warning that Medicare for All would politically ruin Democrats. The day after, he predicted that the ambitious health care proposal would prompt an electoral bloodbath for the party in November 2020.
But there’s just one problem with Ryan’s role as the Democratic Party’s Nostradamus: He’s currently a co-sponsor of a House bill pushing a single-payer health care system.
The legislation is not near a floor vote. But it does have fairly robust support. Ryan is one of more than 100 co-sponsors of the legislation, which was introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), a progressive Democrat, in February. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, is a co-sponsor as well. The bill would guarantee that the government picks up the cost of all medical expenses for Americans, including costs associated with hospitals, doctors, prescription medication, and other specialized treatments like dental and vision care. Notably, the plan states that private insurers would be prohibited from selling competing plans.
Though the proposal seems at odds with the points Ryan was making during Tuesday night’s debate, his campaign said that they were consistent.
"He supports single-payer and has been a cosponsor of a Medicare for All bill for over 10 years," said Emily Slatkow, a communications consultant working on Ryan's campaign. "During the debate, he was taking issue with the notion that Democrats should kick people off their employer-sponsored plans. He was not criticizing the idea of single-payer because he recognizes it comes in many different forms."
During Tuesday's debate, Ryan had sought to challenge progressive stalwarts Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on their support for Medicare for All legislation. In one heated exchange, Sanders was asked by CNN moderator Jake Tapper about the possibility—which Ryan had raised—that union members in Michigan, would be required to give up their private health care plans under his Senate bill.
“They will be better because Medicare for all is comprehensive -- it covers all healthcare needs. For senior citizens it will finally include dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses,” Sanders started, before Ryan cut in.
“But you don't know that -- you don't know that, Bernie,” he said. Sanders ultimately responded in what became a talking point resurfaced from his campaign in the immediate aftermath of the debate.
“I do know it, I wrote the damn bill,” Sanders said.
Ryan, who has polled in the low single digits since announcing his presidential bid in April, continued his broadsides on Wednesday morning during an appearance on MSNBC.
“I think we’d lose 48 states, and I’m having a hard time figuring out what the two states are we’re going to win if our lead message is, ‘We’re going to confiscate health care from people,’” Ryan said. “Let’s focus on giving health care and getting health care affordable and accessible to people who don’t have it. That should be the message, not taking it away.”