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Sanders Says He Would Love to Debate Biden on Medicare for All

Sanders has made Medicare for All a cornerstone of his campaign. Biden has attacked it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden speak during a break at the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday night said he would “love to debate Joe Biden on this issue” — the difference between a Medicare for All plan that dozens of studies show would cover all people for less overall cost and the for-profit status quo that leaves an estimated 28 million Americans uninsured and tens of millions more underinsured, vulnerable to bankruptcies, or lacking care due to financial reasons.

“Medicare for All is wildly popular with working class and lower income people who understand that we have a dysfunctional health care system,” Sanders said in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

“We are spending twice as much — and by the way — I would love to debate Joe Biden on this issue, give us an hour on MSNBC,” Sanders said, “where we can talk about how anyone can defend this system in which we’re spending twice as much per capita on healthcare as the people of any other country and yet 27 million are uninsured, 30,000 people die, half a million people go bankrupt every year because of medical-related debt, and we spend far and away the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs. You want to defend that system? Let’s do it.”


While Sanders won the biggest-delegate state of California on Super Tuesday — along with victories in Colorado, Utah, and Vermont — Biden swept the other ten states leaving him with a slight lead in the national count for Democratic delegates in the party’s primary. Strikingly, in every single one of the primary races held so far that had entrance or exit polls on the question, Medicare for All has shown to be more popular with Democratic primary voters compared to those defending the for-profit system.

Wendell Potter, a former health insurance executive turned whistleblower who now runs the group Medicare for All Now, said the primary polling should be considered a “watershed moment” in public opinion:

“It’s time to say it,” Potter continued, “Medicare for All is now the mainstream, popular, nationwide consensus position for the Democratic Party in 2020. Voters are sick and tired of awful deductibles, surprise bills, stifling networks, and begging strangers for help with medical bills on GoFundMe.”

“To my great shame,” he added, “I spent years helping the private insurance industry trick the American people into thinking the for-profit healthcare system benefits them, when the very opposite is true. I’ve never been more glad to see my own legacy erased. It’s a new era in America.”

As study after study after study after study has shown, Medicare for All would cost the American people less money overall while providing comprehensive, free at point of service coverage to all — even as Biden continues to fearmonger over the pricetag.

Sanders has made Medicare for All a cornerstone of his 2020 campaign while Biden has attacked the progressive solution to the nation’s healthcare woes by using GOP and insurance industry talking points and misleading mathematics to denounce it.

As Biden has repeatedly attacked the ten-year estimated cost of Medicare for All by saying it would cost $35 trillion, what he repeatedly leaves out is that, as Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus points out this week, citing figures from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, total spending under the status quo for-profit system “over the subsequent 10 years likely will reach a staggering $60 trillion — at least.” As Lazarus writes:

That’s the cost of doing nothing. It’s what opponents of healthcare reform are saying is our best option.

And that, of course, is insane.

“We’ve gotten ourselves into a big hole by letting expenditures get out of hand,” said Vivian Ho, a healthcare economist at Rice University. “It’s happening right before our eyes, and we’re not doing anything about it.”

On Thursday morning, a new study by researcher Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute found that a Medicare for All system “would bolster the labor market, strengthen economic security for millions of U.S. households, and would likely boost the number of jobs in the U.S. labor market.”

Medicare for All, according to the study, would:

  • Provide a potential boost to wages and salaries by allowing employers to redirect healthcare spending to workers’ wages.
  • Increase job quality by ensuring that every job would come bundled with a guarantee of health care.
  • Lessen the income loss, stress, and economic shock of unemployment and job transitions by eliminating the loss of health care that accompanies job-loss
  • Support self-employment and small business development — which is low in the United States relative to other rich Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries — by eliminating the daunting cost of health care from startup costs.
  • Inject new dynamism into the overall economy by reducing “job lock,” by allowing workers to go where their skills and preferences lie, not just to workplaces with affordable health plans.

“A fundamental health reform like Medicare for All would be an unambiguously good policy for the labor market, for the economy overall, and for U.S. workers,” Bivens said in a statement. “Besides the obvious benefits of expanding health care to millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans, Medicare for All could raise wages, boost productivity, and help small business owners.”