STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Moderator Lester Holt got the candidates last night to put a difference in health insurance on display.
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LESTER HOLT: Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government-run plan? - just a show of hands to start out with.
INSKEEP: OK, two candidates raised their hand, saying they wanted to abolish private health insurance - Elizabeth Warren and Bill de Blasio. Some others did not, meaning private insurance would stay. NPR political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben has been following this story. She's in our studios.
DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.
INSKEEP: Did you learn something in that moment?
KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. I mean, listen. What that moment was for me was really important for two big reasons. One is that it was a sort of change in tone for Elizabeth Warren, who was at center stage. All eyes were on her. She has co-sponsored a "Medicare for All" bill, the one that Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced. But in interviews, she had been kind of loose on how to get there. She would say, you know, first, we have to stabilize the Affordable Care Act - or Obamacare. And then she would say, you know, there are multiple paths to get to Medicare for All.
Well, last night, she was definitive. Everybody was watching. And her hand went straight up. She said not only that, yes, I would be willing to abolish private insurance, which would be - which would virtually happen under Medicare for All - but she said, I'm with Bernie, which is important at a time that she's battling him for progressive voters.
INSKEEP: I'm remembering during the Obamacare debate, President Obama got in trouble because he said if you like your current health plan, you can keep it - turned out not to be true in all cases. Now you have candidates saying, no matter what you think of your plan, it's going to be a government plan. Is this where voters are at the moment?
KURTZLEBEN: No. I mean, not necessarily. It depends on the voter, of course. But, I mean, listen. Looking at Democratic voters, you see a really interesting thing in the polling. You do have some who are in favor of Medicare for All. But one thing the polling also shows is that they don't necessarily know what it means. And when you say to voters, OK, do you support Medicare for All? - and also, it might mean that you would lose your private insurance. Suddenly, support very much drops. So this is a potentially big political risk that a candidate takes if they say that.
INSKEEP: The public option is an easier sell, I guess, because it sounds like people can get whatever they want.
KURTZLEBEN: Yes. And you have multiple people on the stage last night who were saying that Beto O'Rourke and Amy Klobuchar are a couple who have been pretty vocal in favor of public options.
INSKEEP: Danielle, thanks for the insights - really appreciate them.
KURTZLEBEN: Thank you.
INSKEEP: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.