WASHINGTON — Hawaii’s senior senator, Brian Schatz, got a shout out this week from a presidential contender.

During a CNN town hall, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she doesn’t believe Americans are ready for Medicare-for-all, a statement that bucks the talking point trend among leading progressives running to secure the Democratic nomination in 2020.

Instead, Klobuchar pointed to a bill introduced by Schatz that would allow states to provide a public option for health insurance through Medicaid, something the Minnesota senator considers a middle-of-the-road proposal.

Klobuchar is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

Senator Brian Schatz in Washington DC office. interview w/ Kirstin. 19 jan 2017. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

A health care bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz looks to be part of the presidential debate in 2020.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“I think (Medicare-for-all) is something that we can look to for the future, but I want to get action now,” Klobuchar said.

As Vox pointed out, Klobuchar made clear during the town hall that she doesn’t think Americans are ready for other progressive proposals either, including free college tuition and the Green New Deal.

The fact that she’s talking about Schatz’s bill, however, means that it could play a prominent role in future debates and discussions among Democrats seeking to unseat President Donald Trump in the general election.

An interesting trademark of Schatz’s Medicaid bill is that at least four other declared 2020 presidential candidates have put their name to it, including Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Schatz’s Hawaii colleagues, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, is also an original co-sponsor.

Schatz’s proposal, which he first pitched in 2017, has already garnered a lot of attention.

In an exclusive interview with Vox from that time, the Hawaii senator said the idea was born out of the partisan fighting over the future of the Affordable Care Act, which is also commonly referred to as Obamacare.

Schatz said some Republicans refused to make cuts to Medicaid, realizing that doing so would hurt too many low-income Americans who relied on the program for their health care needs.

As a result, he said, Medicaid became extremely popular, which provided a political opening.

Still, if Klobuchar decides to run with Schatz’s proposal it will invariably contend with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ promise of single-payer health care, an idea that’s caught fire with many on the left. Sanders entered the 2020 field this week.

Schatz told Vox that if it came down to it he would still support a single-payer system, such as Medicare for all. His proposal, he said, it just another way to moving in that direction.

“If there’s ever a vote for single-payer, I’m a ‘yes,’” Schatz said. “But there are lots of things we can do in the meantime to make progress for tens of millions of Americans. And we should do those things.”

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who’s running for president, has said she supports Medicare-for-all.

Schatz, meanwhile, has said repeatedly he is absolutely not running for president in 2020.

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