Former Vice President Joe Biden is being accused of parroting Republican talking points when it comes to Medicare for All by his fellow 2020 competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT).
Biden, the most high-profile presidential candidate to oppose the universal healthcare proposal, is increasingly under fire from Sanders and other Democrats for claiming Medicare for All is impractical.
Sanders, who has long championed the policy in Congress, has fired back at the criticism by accusing Biden of parroting GOP talking points on the issue. In an interview with the New York Times, Sanders responded to concerns Biden has raised over how Medicare for All would be funded by saying the former vice president was using the same tactic favored by Republicans and insurance companies to dismiss the proposal outright.
“Obviously what Biden was doing,” Sanders told the paper on Sunday,” is what the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries, Republicans, do: ignoring the fact that people will save money on their health care because they will no longer have to pay premiums or out-of-pocket expenses. They will no longer have high deductibles and high co-payments.”
“The charge that he’s making is exactly what the Republicans are saying,” the Vermont senator added.
Shortly after the interview, Sanders launched an interactive quiz on his campaign website in an effort to show there was little contrast between Biden’s critiques of Medicare for All and those emanating from President Donald Trump and the insurance lobby.
“Joe Biden is attacking Medicare for All with lies straight out of the playbook of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the health insurance industry,” Sanders’s quiz starts. “Can you guess who said it?”
Since announcing his presidential campaign in late April, Biden has lambasted Medicare for All as overly ambitious and difficult to implement. In a CNN interview earlier this month, Biden claimed that Sanders was the only candidate, out of a majority of those running that have endorsed Medicare for All, to be upfront about the costs and consequences of the policy.
“Bernie’s been very honest about it. He said you’re going to have to raise taxes on the middle class. He said it’s going to end all private insurance. I mean, he’s been straightforward about it. And he’s making his case,” Biden said, before adding other Democrats have not been as transparent.
The former vice president’s views on the topic were further displayed on Monday during an AARP forum in Iowa, where Biden expressed a transition to Medicare for All would be too “risky.”
“Medicare goes away, it’s a new Medicare system,” he said. “It may be as good, you may like it as well, it may or may not, but the transition of dropping 300 million people on a totally new plan, I think is a little risky at this point.”
The comments were made shortly after Biden unveiled his own healthcare plan, which seeks to fortify ObamaCare, while simultaneously expanding access to coverage. The crux of Biden’s proposal revolves around creating a new “public health insurance option” that will function similar to Medicare and Medicaid. When pitching the plan, Biden couched his opposition to Medicare for All in terms of preserving the Affordable Care Act.
“I believe we have to protect and build on ObamaCare. That’s why I’ve proposed adding a public option to ObamaCare as the best way to lower costs and cover everyone,” Biden said in a video announcing the plan. “I understand the appeal of Medicare for All, but folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare, and I’m not for that.”
Despite attempting to cloak his hostility to Medicare for All in protecting ObamaCare, Biden’s critiques still strike many on the left as parroting those coming from Republicans. Jess McIntosh, a former senior communications adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, confirmed as much on Tuesday during a panel discussion on CNN’s New Day.
“The risk he has here though, is he comes dangerously close to using Republican talking points when talking about Medicare-for-all,” McIntosh said. “There was a lot of ‘Medicare as you know it will go away, seniors will be left with nothing’ that sounds suspiciously like Donald Trump.”
She added such claims were unlikely to benefit Biden among Democrat primary voters, who tend to favor the policy significantly more than average Americans.
“As long as Biden is trying to appeal to the Democratic base during the primary, they’re not going to like him engaging with this topic using that kind of language,” McIntosh said.