U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand at a town hall meeting Wednesday night called for a "Medicare-for-all" plan that would move the nation's health care system away from the current for-profit insurance model.
Health care was also the focus of Gillibrand's constituents who showed up to the event at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy. They asked whether the senator expected Republicans to bring up a health care bill again. Yes, she does.
"They will bring it up again," she said of Republican efforts to pare back the Affordable Care Act. "I promise you they will bring it up again and again and again. ... If they can find a way to buy off the votes they need to pass it, they will."
But Gillibrand repeatedly steered her health care message back to the Medicare-for-all idea — a proposal favored by progressive Democrats to expand the nation's health plan for people 65 and older to all Americans. She argued moving toward a nonprofit model was the only way to expand health insurance coverage to more Americans while reducing costs.
"You need to have that not-for-profit goal," she said. "Your goal is to help people not profit."
She conceded that insurance plans under some of the current regional health care exchanges were "still too expensive" for families and small businesses, and suggested Republicans would accept granting Americans the option to buy in to Medicare at younger ages as part of a broader compromise to shore up insurance markets.
Constituents — none of who directly challenged Gillibrand in their questions — also asked about climate change, pension security and what kind of message Democrats need to energize young voters and win future elections.
Some raised concerns over recent reports about North Korea's accelerating nuclear capabilities and dueling threats from President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Gillibrand said she was "very concerned."
"I'm concerned that saber-rattling is not the right approach right now," she said. "We need political and diplomatic solutions on the table and we need to work harder to bring the temperature down."
While Gillibrand didn't lean heavily on attacks against Trump — at one point she highlighted a bill of hers he signed — she didn't shy away from calling out policies she argued were damaging to New York and the country.
One questioner listed federal agencies she said she worried were seriously threatened under Trump — the Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Department and the Department of Education chief among them.
"I'm very concerned about whether the institutions will hold," she said.
Gillibrand said she also was concerned about Trump's attacks on the judiciary, free press and religious minorities. But she also said she felt America's core institutions were strong enough to outlast the Trump presidency.
"I do believe our institutions are strong enough and will prevail," Gillibrand said.