Andrew Yang, pressed on health care, says he would 'expand' universal health care 'over time'

In his plan, Yang stops short of offering a public option.

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang defended his recently released health care plan, saying that he would work toward a "vision" of "universal health care for all Americans," despite his plan not directly supporting "Medicare for All" or a public option.

"We need to move towards universal health care that's high quality and nearly cost free for Americans around the country," Yang said on "This Week" Sunday. "But reality is, we have millions of Americans who are on private insurance right now and taking those plans away from them very quickly would be untenable for many, many Americans."

"To me, the goal of the government has to be to demonstrate that we can outcompete private plans and then push them out of the market over time," Yang added.

Yang’s campaign outlined his plan earlier this month, saying, "To be clear, I support the spirit of 'Medicare for All,'" before adding, "Swiftly reformatting 18% of our economy and eliminating private insurance for millions of Americans is not a realistic strategy, so we need to provide a new way forward on health care for all Americans."

On Sunday, ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl questioned Yang on two political ads his campaign ran this fall that touted moving to a Medicare for All system.

"I'm confused. Your ad is explicit. Your ad says, Medicare for All. Your plan is not Medicare for All. It's not even Medicare for some because in your plan there's not even a public option," Karl said.

"Well, our health care plan would be based on Medicare and expanding it over time to more and more Americans," Yang responded. "You'd lower the eligibility age and then you make it widely accessible."

Yang’s plan stops short of offering the public option plan that even moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg have committed to implementing.

Yang has been a surprise candidate in the 2020 race, breaking through with his pitch for his universal basic income plan. The "Freedom Dividend" plan would give $1000 each month to every American citizen over the age of 18 who opts in, as way to counter job loss from increased automation.

On "This Week" Sunday, Yang defended giving the monthly dividend to all Americans, including billionaires like President Donald Trump or Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saying his plan is based on the petroleum dividend that's been in effect in Alaska for almost 40 years.

"Everyone in Alaska is getting between $1,000 and $2,000 a year, no questions asked, and that's the richest Alaskan and the poorest," Yang said. "And what this does is it universalizes it and makes it popular. There's no stigma attached to it. There's no you get it, I don't."

Yang said the appeal of his proposal comes from understanding why Trump won the 2016 election.

"The reason Donald Trump is our president is that we automated away 4 million manufacturing jobs based in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Iowa, the swing states he needed to win," Yang said on "This Week."

"Democrats still have not asked themselves the hard questions of how Donald Trump won in 2016," Yang added.

With just five weeks before the first votes are cast in Iowa, the once long-shot candidate has maintained a strong support base that has carried him through the qualification thresholds for six Democratic debates. In December, he was the only candidate of color on the debate stage after Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., dropped out of the 2020 race.

Yang has not made the January debate stage yet, but when asked by Karl how he plans to break through to the next level, Yang said, "I love being described as a surprise break-through. That seems very positive."

He continued, "I can't wait for new polls to come out that show how much we're growing. How much the energy and enthusiasm and the crowds are getting bigger every time I have go to any of the early states."

Yang is now headed to New Hampshire where he will ring in the new year.

In order to qualify for the next debate, Yang needs one more poll with at least 5% nationally or 7% in the early states. The deadline to qualify is January 10 at 11:59 p.m.