Delaney Challenges Sanders and Warren on Health Insurance: ‘We Don’t Have to…Be the Party of Subtraction’

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( – Health care was the first issue raised at the CNN-hosted Democrat debate, where moderators cut off many candidates before they could finish their answers.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a candidate who wants to do away with private insurance in favor of “Medicare for All,” told the audience: “We are not about trying to take away health care from anyone. That’s what the Republicans are trying to do.”

Warren was reacting to former Rep. John Delaney (Md.), who said:

We can create a universal health care system to give everyone basic health care for free, and I have a proposal to do it. But we don’t have to go around and be the party of subtraction, and telling half the country who has private health insurance that their health insurance is illegal.

My dad, the union electrician, loved the health care he got from the IBEW. He would never want someone to take that away. Half of Medicare beneficiaries now have Medicare Advantage, which is private insurance, or supplemental plans. It’s also bad policy. It’ll underfund the industry, many hospitals will close.

“You’re wrong,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) chimed in, attacking health care industry profits:

“Five minutes away from me, John, is a country, it’s called Canada. They guarantee health care to every man, woman and child as a human right. They spend half of what we spend. And by the way, when you end up in a hospital in Canada, you come out with no bill at all. Health care is a human right, not a privilege. I believe that, I will fight for that,” Sanders told Delaney.

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“The fact of the matter is, tens of millions of people lose their health insurance every single year when they change jobs or their employer changes that insurance. If you want stability in the health care system, if you want a system which gives you freedom of choice with regard to a doctor or a hospital, which is a system which will not bankrupt you, the answer is to get rid of the profiteering of the drug companies and the insurance companies, move to Medicare for all,” Sanders said.

Delaney said his plan is “really simple.”

“We should deal with the tragedy of the uninsured and give everyone health care as a right. But why do we got to be the party of taking something away from people? That’s what they’re running on — telling half the country that your health insurance is illegal, Delaney said of Sanders and Warren.

“We don’t have to do that. We can give everyone health care and allow people to have choice. That’s the American way,” Delaney said, as moderator Jake Tapper cut him off.

It was now Sen. Warren’s turn, and she launched into a story about someone she knows with ALS, a terminal and expensive condition.

Tapper steered Warren back to “Medicare for All,” asking if her plan will raise taxes on middle-class Americans, as Bernie Sander’s plan does:

“So giant corporations and billionaires are going to pay more. Middle-class families are going to pay less out of pocket for their health care. And I’d like to finish talking about Ady, the guy who has ALS,” Warren said.

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At the end of her spiel, Tapper gave Warren an extra 15 seconds to answer the question she dodged: “Would you raise taxes on the middle class to pay for Medicare for All, offset, obviously, by the elimination of insurance premiums — yes or no?”

“Costs will go up for billionaires and go up for corporations,” Warren replied. “For middle-class families, costs — total costs — will go down.”

In other words, it appears that Warren, like Sanders, would have the middle class pay higher taxes in exchange for universal coverage and the elimination of insurance premiums.

Other candidates agreed with Delaney:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper steered a less radical course on health insurance, disagreeing with Sanders and Warren:

“You know, it comes down to that question of Americans being used to being able to make choices, to have the right to make a decision. And I think proposing a public option that allows some form of Medicare that maybe is a combination of Medicare Advantage and Medicare, but people choose it, and if enough people choose it, it expands, the quality improves, the cost comes down, more people choose it, eventually, in 15 years, you could get there, but it would be an evolution, not a revolution,” Hickenlooper said.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), said the Sanders-Warren plan “will tell those union members who gave away wages in order to get good healthcare that they’re going to lose their healthcare because Washington’s going to come in and tell them they got a better plan.” Ryan suggested moving the eligibility age for Medicare to 50.”

“I’m trying to explain that these union members are losing their jobs, their wages have been stagnant, the world is crumbling around them — the only thing they have is possibly really good healthcare,” Ryan said.

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“And the Democratic message is going to be, we’re going to go in and the only thing you have left we’re going to take it and we’re going to do better. I do not think that’s a recipe for success for us, it’s bad policy and it’s certainly bad politics.”

Candidate Marianne Williamson told the audience she’s usually “way over there” with Bernie and Elizabeth, but not when it comes to eliminating private insurance:

“And I do have concern about what the Republicans would say. And that’s not just a Republican talking point. I do have concern that it will be difficult. I have concern that it will make it harder to win, and I have a concern that it’ll make it harder to govern.”

To which South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said, “It is time to stop worrying about what the Republicans will say.”

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock does not support Medicare for All:  “At the end of the day,” he said, “I’m not going to support any plan that rips away quality health care from individuals,” Bullock said. “This is an example of wish list economics. It used to be just Republicans who wanted to repeal and replace. Now many Democrats do, as well. We can get there with a public option, negotiating drug prices, ending…” (He was cut off.)

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