Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have kept up their debate over health care following their spat during Thursday night’s Democratic debate, with Biden accusing Sanders of effectively handing Americans a pay cut and Sanders accusing Biden of distorting the socialist’s “Medicare-for-all” plan.
“I do not doubt the motives of either of the two leaders on the issue of Medicare-for-all. I don’t doubt their motives,” Biden said in Houston Friday while discussing Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., “but it’s going to cost over $3.4 trillion dollars a year just to fund Medicare. $3.4 trillion a year.
“That is twice the entire federal budget save interest on the debt. And so how do you do that without raising taxes? There’s not enough taxes to cut — eliminate tax breaks for the wealthy — there’s not enough out there to get you there,” he added.
Biden, the frontrunner, has faced criticism from multiple candidates for wanting to build on the Affordable Care Act rather than advocating a larger, single-payer program like Medicare-for-all.
On Friday, the Sanders campaign accused Biden of “dishonest attacks” and furthering the health care industry’s narrative on the issue.
“It’s disappointing Joe Biden is echoing the deceptions and falsehoods of the health care industry … Joe Biden may love the insurance industry and the outrageously high premiums, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses they charge us. Most Americans don’t,” a campaign statement read.
During a campaign stop in Nevada Friday, Sanders repeated his refrain that health care is a human right and that Medicare-for-all would cover every man, woman and child in the country. It requires no premiums, no deductibles and no out-of-pocket costs and would expand Medicare to include such things as dental care, hearing aids and home health care.”
“Apparently the vice president thinks it is just wonderful for people to be paying $1,000 a month … just for health care premiums,” he said during the town hall event in Carson City. “Having deductibles of $4,000 or $5,000 or more — not a problem. Paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs — not a problem. Well, I think those are problems.”
“It’s not a terribly radical idea because in one form or another it exists in countries all over the world, including Canada,” Sanders said. “Is it free? No. It is funded out of the general fund in a progressive manner.”
Later in the event, Sanders listened as a 58-year-old Navy veteran with Huntington’s disease told the senator he was planning to kill himself after losing his health care and racking up $139,000 in medical expenses.
Sanders responded, “No, you’re not,” and promised to meet with the man privately after the event, according to the Las Vegas Journal-Review.
The scrap between Biden and Sanders is a microcosm of a broader, ongoing debate within the Democratic Party. Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, has championed progressive proposals and adopted a more aggressive, anti-corporate tone than Biden has.
When the two faced off on Thursday, Biden attempted to mock Sanders’ anti-corporate image by accusing him of trusting employers too much in his “Medicare for all” proposal. Biden argued that employers who now pay a share of workers’ premiums would pocket that money instead of giving workers raises if the government were to cover all health care costs.
“Let me tell you something, for a socialist, you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do,” Biden said.
Sanders later laughed that statement off during an interview with Fox News following the debate.
“One of us voted for the Wall Street bailout — that was Biden, by the way. One of us voted for disastrous trade agreements that were sponsored by corporate America — that was Biden. One of us voted for a bankruptcy bill that was pushed by the banks — that was Biden,” he said.
“So, to suggest that Bernie Sanders is sympathetic to the corporate elite, I think, is rather humorous.”
Fox News’ Madeleine Rivera, Brooke Singman, Charles Creitz, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.