Joe Biden Declares ‘Health Care Should Be a Right,’ But Balks at Signing Medicare for All as President: ‘How Are You Going to Find $35 Trillion?’


Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden declared that “health care should be a right in America,” but then balked at the prospect of signing, as president, a Medicare for All bill if it were to pass Congress.

In a pre-taped interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, Biden used the MSNBC host’s hypothetical question to implicitly criticize his 2020 rival, Bernie Sanders, for his plan to roll out universal health care to everyone in the country.

“Let’s flash forward, you’re president,” O’Donnell began. “Bernie Sanders is still active in the Senate, he manages to get Medicare for All through the Senate in some compromise version, Elizabeth Warren’s version or other version. Nancy Pelosi gets a version it through the House of Representatives. It comes to your desk, do you veto it?”

“I would veto anything that delays providing the security and the certainty of health care being available now,” Biden said, somewhat cryptically, sine Warren’s plan, for example, would immediately cover all children for free as well as all families making at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. “If they got that through by some miracle, if some epiphany occurred, and some miracle occurred and said ‘OK, it’s passed’ then you got to look at the cost. I want to know how did they find $35 trillion?”

Citing one estimate for the cost others put the cost closer to $30 trillion over 10 years Biden questioned the ability to pay for Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal, which would eliminate private health insurance in the country. However, according to one Yale study touted by Sanders, his plan would save 68,000 lives and benefit the US economy to the tune of $450 billion a year. On his campaign website, Sanders details a package of new taxes and revenue-raising measures that he claims would pay for the transition to full Medicare, but his proposals only total up to $17.5 trillion over a decade.

“Is it going to significantly raise taxes on the middle class? Which it will,” Biden asked and then answered his own question, hitting a policy point that Sanders himself has acknowledged. Sanders, though, rebuts this by saying any tax increases borne by the middle calls will be more than offset by savings from eliminating premiums, deductibles, and co-pays.

“My opposition isn’t to the principle that you should have Medicare. Everybody, health care should be a right in America,” Biden explained. “My opposition relates to whether or not, a, it’s doable, and, two, what the cost is and what the consequences to the rest of the budget are. How are going to find $35 trillion over the next 10 years without having profound impacts on everything from taxes for middle class, working class people, as well as the impact on the rest of the budget.”

Watch the video above, via MSNBC.

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