The International Association of Fire Fighters opposes “Medicare for All,” telling Democratic presidential candidates “we would find it difficult to support any candidate” who proposes eliminating employer-sponsored health care.
The union, which endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden days after he entered the 2020 race, made its position clear in a letter sent to each of the Democratic contenders last week.
“The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), our 317,000 members and millions of others with quality, employer-provided healthcare do not support the concept of abandoning those plans for a government-run single-payer plan,” Harold Schaitberger, general president of the IAFF, wrote in the letter. “The elimination of employer-based insurance in favor of a Medicare-for-all or government-run single-payer proposal is a bad idea that punishes working families who have secured quality healthcare.”
This position sets the union at odds with Medicare for All backers like Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. The union’s stance tracks more closely with Biden, whose plan preserves the current health care system but provides a Medicare-like option for individuals to buy into while keeping private and employer-sponsored insurance.
In an interview with CNN, Schaitberger said the union has developed and negotiated health care coverage unique to its members that it does not want to see scrapped.
“We’ve had a record of supporting health care for every American, for everyone, but not at the expense of the plans that we have developed and negotiated over time and again,” Schaitberger said. “With our profession and the type of injuries and the type of disease and the level of cancers and the level of behavioral health and post-traumatic stress, we have plans that we depend on that will assure coverage for those occurrences.”
He added, “We are not going to chance a government-run for Medicare for All plan that’s somehow going to provide coverage for everyone and it’s going to encompass the unique and special needs that our profession has not only earned and we developed.”
A recent CNN poll found 85% of Democrats favor a government-run health care plan, but only 30% of Democrats say a national program should completely replace private insurance.
Schaitberger said health care will be a “core issue” for the union in the upcoming election and argued it would be hard to support a nominee whose plan eliminates employer-based health care plans, saying, “It would be a huge disincentive at best.”