In 2010, long before I thought about running for president, it looked like my new career in politics might be over before it started. I had been appointed to the U.S. Senate just one year before, and was up for reelection. After serving as Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools and working in business before that, few Coloradans outside my hometown knew much about me. And I faced a vote most pundits predicted could cost me my seat: President Obama’s signature healthcare bill, the Affordable Care Act.

I voted for it. That was the easy part; it was the right thing to do. The hard part came later, when I hosted town halls in parts of Colorado that seldom voted for Democrats. Health care is an emotional issue, and a lot of people weren’t happy. So I looked my constituents in the eye, listened to their concerns, and explained my decision. Some still disagreed, but they all knew where I stood. In the end, I was reelected.

Health care has dominated this primary, and Democrats are having a serious debate about where we stand. The ACA was a good start, but it wasn’t a silver bullet; for millions of Americans, health insurance is still inaccessible or prohibitively expensive. Once again, we must look people in the eye and tell the truth about how to fix it.

During the ACA debate in 2009, I led the charge for a public insurance option. Partisanship got in the way of progress then, but I still believe families deserve a choice. My public option plan, Medicare-X, lets families decide what works for them. If they like their current plan from their employer or union, they can keep it. If public insurance will save money, then they can sign up for that instead. Medicare-X starts in rural areas where the market is failing too many people. With a public option, we can cover everyone in three years and dramatically lower costs.

Contrast that with Medicare for All, the other idea in this debate. That plan tries to achieve the same goal – universal coverage – but at a much higher cost. It starts by kicking 180 million Americans off their current private plans and replacing them with a government-run plan, whether they want it or not. It also massively raises taxes on the middle class. If I presented a plan like that at a city council meeting, I’d get laughed out of the room.

Medicare For All would also cost us something more important than money: time. It’s a president’s most valuable resource, and I intend to use it wisely.

The American people need a lot more than just health insurance. They need their next president to offer a durable solution to climate change, before it’s too late. They need a president who understands how to invest in the 70 percent of American workers who don’t graduate from a four-year college so they can earn a living wage, not the minimum wage. And they need someone who will dramatically reinvest in – and reimagine – our education system, which is reinforcing inequality instead of liberating kids from it.

None of that can wait. All of it will take time, energy, and bipartisan consensus. If we beat Trump, but spend the next 10 years trying and failing to enact Medicare for All, we will have wasted an opportunity to make the progress so many families need.

We can’t let that happen. Trump promised Americans better coverage at a lower cost – and then became the first president to strip health care from millions of those who need it most. As Democrats, we say we’re better than that kind of empty posturing. As your president, I’ll prove it.

Be the first to know - Sign up for News Alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, is a candidate for president.