In her first debate as a frontrunner, Sen. Elizabeth Warren faced attacks over her position on health care.
Warren is a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, which will transition all Americans onto a single-payer health care plan where costs are paid by the government. Over the last few months, moderators and reporters have repeatedly attempted to get Warren to say that taxes on the middle class will go up under the plan. She has consistently declined, focusing on the fact that under the plan, total costs will go down for families because they’ll no longer have to worry about the costs of premiums, copays or deductibles.
After Warren again declined to state that taxes would go up, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went on an attack he has been telegraphing.
“We heard it tonight: a yes-or-no question that didn’t get a yes-or-no answer,” said Buttigieg. “Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular. Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything except this.”
Buttigieg has been promoting a public option plan that would retain private insurance, although his plan wouldn’t guarantee universal coverage to all Americans.
“My view on this and what I have committed to is costs will go down for hard-working middle-class families,” said Warren. “I will not embrace a plan like ‘Medicare for All Who Can Afford It’ which will leave behind millions of people who cannot, and I will not embrace a plan that says people have great insurance right up until they get the diagnosis and the insurance company says, ‘Sorry, we’re not covering your expensive cancer treatments.’”
Warren was also pushed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has attempted to stake out a centrist lane in the primary but has failed to gain traction.
“At least Bernie is being honest here, and saying how he’s going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up,” said Klobuchar, adding, “I appreciate Elizabeth’s work but the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done.”
Klobuchar has been pushing for a public option, saying it will fulfill President Barack Obama’s original plan for the Affordable Care Act in 2008. She added that a public option would be easier to pass than Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, but the insurance industry is united in its opposition to both types of legislation.
Sanders came to Warren’s defense, closing out the discussion by stating that he gets “a little bit tired of people defending a system which is dysfunctional, which is cruel.”
“The issue is whether the Democratic Party has the guts to stand up to the health care industry which made $100 billion in profit,” said Sanders. “Whether we have the guts to stand up to the corrupt price-fixing pharmaceutical industry which is charging us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and if we don’t have the guts to do that, if all we can do is take their money we should be ashamed of ourselves.”
The American health care system is among the most expensive in the world and also has some of the highest prescription drug costs. At the same time, 28 million people are without health coverage and 79 million have medical debt, and crowdfunding sites to help cover medical expenses are proliferating.
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