Health care debate gets contentious between Biden, Warren and Sanders

Health care debate gets contentious between Biden, Warren and Sanders
ABC News

The first topic of the night at the Democratic debate was one of the most important for voters: health care. After each candidate laid out their vision, it got a bit contentious as former Vice President Joe Biden went after the Medicare for All plans from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who each backed each other’s call for Medicare for All.


Biden saw an opportunity to create a larger divide between himself and his two strongest contenders on the #1 issue for voters. With Sanders and Warren in agreement, Biden launched into his expansion of the Affordable Care Act and then asked how the others expected to pay for their plans. Here’s the exact quote and video. Jump below to see how Warren and Sanders hit back.

Joe Biden: She’s for Bernie. Well, I’m for Barack. I think the Obamacare worked. I think we add to it, replace everything that’s been cut, add a public option, guarantee that everyone will be able to have affordable insurance, number one.

Number two, I think we should be in a position to take a look at what costs are. My plan for health care costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn’t cost $30 trillion. $3.4 trillion a year it turns out, is twice what the entire federal budget is, that’s before it exists now. Before interest on the debt. I want to hear, tonight how that’s happened. Thus far, my distinguished friend, the senator on my left (Warren) has not distinguished how she pays for it. And the senator (motioning to Sanders) has come forward and said how he’s going to pay for it, but it gets him about halfway there. There’s a lot of other things that need to be done.

Given a chance to follow-up, Warren pointed out that Americans are already paying for health care, heavily. Instead of paying that money into a for-profit private system where shareholders and their profits drive policy, a non-profit public system would be more beneficial. Warren repeated something she often says on the road when asked about “taking away people’s health care plans.”

Here’s what she said (video below):

Elizabeth Warren: So, let's be clear, I've actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company. I've met people who like their doctors, I’ve met people who like their nurses, I've met people who like their pharmacists, I met people who like their physical therapists. What they want is access to health care.

And we just need to be clear about what Medicare for All is all about. Instead of paying premiums into insurance companies and then having insurance companies build their profits by saying no to coverage, we're going to do this by saying, everyone is covered by Medicare for All, every health care provider is covered. And the only question here in terms of difference is where to send the bill.

Sanders reiterated that the money Americans currently pay would be put into a public system that removes profit incentives and echoed Warren, saying, “Maybe you’ve run into people who love their premiums. I haven’t.” Here’s his full response (video below):

Moderator: Senator Sanders?

Bernie Sanders: Let us be clear, Joe, in the United States of America, we have spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians or any other major country on earth.

Biden: This is America.

Sanders: Yeah, but Americans don't want to pay twice as much as other countries. And they guarantee health care to all people. Under my Medicare for All proposal, when you don't pay out of pocket and you don't pay premiums, maybe you've run into people who love their premiums. I haven't. What people want is cost effective health care, Medicare for All will save the average American substantial sums of money on his or her health care bill.

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