September 13, 2019

Democratic debate round 3: Leading candidates still at odds over 'Medicare for All'

Daily Briefing

    Democratic candidates vying for the 2020 presidential nomination sparred over health care in Thursday's primary debate.

    Where the 2020 Democratic candidates stand on health care

    Details on the debate

    Thursday night's debate featured the top 10 candidates, based on polling, who currently are seeking the Democratic nomination for president:

    • Former Vice President Joe Biden;
    • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.);
    • Pete Buttigieg (D), mayor of South Bend, Indiana;
    • Former Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro;
    • Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.);
    • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.);
    • Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas);
    • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.);
    • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); and
    • Andrew Yang, an author and entrepreneur.

    Health care in the spotlight

    As Axios' "Vitals" reports, Thursday's debate offered little new information on candidates' health care positions, but instead served as a venue for candidates to further debate those plans. 

    For instance, Biden said his plan to reform the U.S. health care system would build on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by creating a so-called "public option" health plan that would compete with private health plans on the market.

    But Castro and Sanders criticized Biden's plan. According to the Wall Journal, Castro said Biden's approach would be too incremental and would not provide broad coverage for U.S. residents.

    However, Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar panned proposals supported by Castro, Sanders, and Warren that would move the United States to a single-payer health care system by expanding Medicare coverage to all U.S. residents. Klobuchar called Sanders' so-called "Medicare-for-All" proposal a "bad idea," and Buttigieg claimed a single-payer health care system would take away consumers' ability to make their own health care choices. "I trust the American people to make the right choice for them. Why don't you?" Buttigieg said.

    Biden said implementing Medicare for All would be costly for the United States and would require tax increases for middle-income U.S. residents. Biden challenged Sanders and Warren to defend the costs of Medicare-for-All proposals.

    In response, Sanders and Warren said Medicare-for-All proposals would lower U.S. residents' out-of-pocket health care costs.

    Sanders said, "Every study done shows that Medicare for All is the most cost-effective approach to providing health care to every man, woman, and child in this country. I, who wrote the damn bill, if I may say so, intend to eliminate all out-of-pocket expenses, all deductibles, all co-payments. Nobody in America will pay more than $200 a year for prescription drugs, because we're going to stand up to the greed and corruption and price-fixing of the pharmaceutical industry."

    Warren acknowledged that the ACA has "fundamentally transformed health care" in the United State, but said the next president will need to go further than the health reform law. "[T]he question is, how best can we improve on it?" Warren asked. She added that, under her Medicare-for-All proposal, "Costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations. But for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down" (Day et al., Wall Street Journal, 9/13; Reid/Ax, Reuters, 9/12; Sonmez et al., Washington Post, 9/13; Barrow/Peoples, Associated Press, 9/13; Martin/Burns, New York Times, 9/12; Burns et al., New York Times, 9/11).

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