/South Carolina voters with no insurance, deep medical debt swayed by health care

South Carolina voters with no insurance, deep medical debt swayed by health care

Potter’s group has hired canvassers, bringing some in from out of state, to target five counties in South Carolina with large black populations to share more information about Medicare for All.

As the group has focused its sights on the black community, it seems apparent that Potter was also openly chipping away at the firewall of former Vice President Joe Biden, who has hitched his presidential prospects on the black community and South Carolina but remains opposed to Medicare for All.

Potter said that Biden had clung too closely to the ACA, thus overlooking the need for structural change in the health care industry.

“It did do a lot of good,” Potter said of the ACA. “But it’s built on a foundation that’s not sustainable, and that is the foundation of profit-driven insurance companies really calling the shots in our health care system. As long as you have that in place, we’re not going to be able to make progress in lowering cost of health care and getting people into health plans that are actually worth something.”

The group plans to pursue similar campaigns in states after Super Tuesday, and intends to specifically target Wisconsin — a state that hasn’t expanded Medicaid and is the host of the Democratic National Convention later this year.

But some Democrats said Potter and the candidates pushing for Medicare for All are politically naïve, especially in a state with a heavy conservative streak like South Carolina.

Tawanya Herbert, left, canvasses for “Medicare for All” in North Charleston, S.C.Mark Makela / for NBC News

Joel Laurie, a former Democratic state senator who now works in the health care insurance industry, called Medicare for All a “pipe dream” that would only exhaust the political capital needed to help those people in South Carolina without health insurance.

Biden’s plan, meanwhile, was an attractive option because Laurie said it could draw support beyond progressive Democrats and resolve South Carolina’s health care issue at the federal level, circumventing the state government.

“Joe Biden’s plan is the only one that takes a pragmatic approach to closing the gap,” Laurie said. “He can’t force Medicaid expansion, but he can create a federal Medicare option. That would be a huge win for people.”

The other concern that has been reiterated by the Democratic establishment is that progressive policies like Medicare for All would hurt down-ballot candidates vying for elected offices in more conservative areas of the country, like South Carolina.

Harrison’s challenge of Graham here often comes up in that conversation, as does Rep. Joe Cunningham, who won a House seat representing the Charleston area and has been open about his opposition to Sanders and socialism.

Harrison, who has not endorsed any of the presidential candidates, took a practical stance.

“People retreat into camps, and I’m trying to bring people unified into one camp. We need health care for everybody, we need to make sure our health care isn’t closed off to people, and we need to make sure these health care deserts aren’t there,” he said, adding that he was open to conversations on the best way to get there.

Still, for many South Carolinians, better health care coverage can’t come soon enough.

Elizabeth Jones, 69, applauds Sen. Elizabeth Warren during a rally in Orangeburg. Jones suffered a stroke without insurance, bankrupting her and her husband.Mark Makela / for NBC News

Elizabeth Jones, 69, suffered a stroke without insurance and went bankrupt. While she waited for Warren and John Legend to take the stage at South Carolina State University on Wednesday, she said that even with Medicare coverage now, she often finds herself choosing between paying for her prescriptions and paying her electricity bill.

“People are dying here, and so many more are hurting,” she said, adjusting herself in her wheelchair. “This has to be fixed.”

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