On Friday, former Vice President and 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden held an outdoor town hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During the event, Biden spoke about health care.
After claiming that the notion of Medicare-for-All, which has been proposed by presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), is “a great idea,” the former vice president noted that the estimated annual cost would be “twice the national budget,” adding that such a cost would require the raising of taxes, and could be especially harmful during a recession.
As Biden began to speak about his own health care plan, a woman in the crowd interjected, blasting “profits in health care,” and claiming that she would be willing to pay an extra 9% in taxes for a government-run system.
Following a brief back-and-forth, Biden roasted the woman by suggesting she has “the right candidate in Bernie.”
[Some of what the woman says is unclear. As such, the portions of her remarks that appear in brackets have been inserted for clarity, and aren’t necessarily the exact words she used.]
BIDEN: For example, we’ve got to be smarter in what we do to get to where we need to get. I take Obamacare and I reestablish all that was cut from it … and I add a public option to it, and I allow you to keep your private health insurance. If you’ve negotiated hard with a company over the years and you have a private plan you like – as long as you have it, you can keep it, but if you don’t like it or it’s cut, you can immediately join this new plan, which is an amped-up Obamacare. … My plan costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion over ten years. It does not cost $30 to $40 trillion … over the next ten years, and I think [it] works better, by the way…
WOMAN: There’s still profits in health care though.
BIDEN: Sure there’s profits in health care … but everybody gets health care, and you only have a few people – are you prepared to pay nine more percent in your taxes?
WOMAN: You bet [because] I don’t even have the kind of health insurance that some companies cover.
BIDEN: Well, okay.
WOMAN: We need to have a leader that isn’t protecting insurance companies’ profits.
BIDEN: I am not protecting insurance – that’s unfair to say. … Here’s the deal. Insurance companies are strongly against my plan. They’re against Obamacare. They’re fighting against it because they know it costs them. But here’s the deal. If you have worked your whole life, you’ve given up five, seven, eight percent of your salary to get coverage with a plan that you may have with your employer, and now what’s going to happen? If you are no longer able to keep it, what happens? The employer gets multibillion-dollar breaks across the board, and you think they’re going to give it back to you?
WOMAN: [They’re going to give it back] to the government so we can pay for that insurance.
BIDEN: Well, they’re not going to give it to the government.
WOMAN: [We’re] going to make them do it.
BIDEN: Well, God love you. You’ve got the right candidate in Bernie; you got the right one. Well, and Elizabeth, or whomever you have. That’s a great thing, but here’s the point, folks. We have to be able to level with you … let’s at least acknowledge – tell Elizabeth … it’s going to cost a lot of money, and she’s gonna raise peoples’ taxes doing it. And what are we going to do in the middle of a recession if we ended up there?
The pertinent portion of the video begins at the 46:36 mark:
According to multiple estimates, the cost of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-All system would be approximately $32 trillion over ten years. Back in July, Sanders himself offered a similar estimate of between $30 trillion to $40 trillion over a decade.
Sanders has previously acknowledged that middle-class taxes will have to be increased for a Medicare-for-All system to function.
Sen. Warren has been much more vague. During the most recent Democratic primary debate, she said the following about her health care plan:
And now the question is, how best can we improve on it? And I believe the best way we can do that is we make sure that everybody gets covered by health care at the lowest possible cost. How do we pay for it? Those at the very top, the richest individuals and the biggest corporations, are going to pay more. And middle class families are going to pay less. That’s how this is going to work.
When pressed by moderator George Stephanopoulos about a potential increase in taxes on the middle class given such an ambitious plan, Warren pivoted to “total cost,” and said in part that with “Medicare-for-All, 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, and that’s how it should work under Medicare-for-All in our health care system.”