Another Dem Debate. Guess what was barely mentioned yet again?
PHILLIP: Let's turn to health care, the top issue for Iowa Democrats. Donald Trump is trying to repeal Obamacare, including the protections for pre-existing conditions. We all know that each of you vigorously opposes that. Still, there are some questions about what each of you would do.
This was the only time throughout the entire healthcare portion of the debate that anyone said a peep about the Texas vs. Azar lawsuit...and it wasn't even one of the candidates; it was the moderator.
Senator Sanders, you have consistently refused to say exactly how much your Medicare For All plan is going to cost. Don't voters deserve to see the price tag before you send them a bill that could cost tens of trillions of dollars?
SANDERS: Well, what I will tell you is Medicare For All, which will guarantee comprehensive health care to every man, woman and child, will cost substantially less than the status quo. Medicare For All will end the absurdity of the United States paying by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and health care in general, while we have 87 million uninsured -- uninsured and underinsured, and while 30,000 people die each year.
Under Medicare For All, one of the provisions we have to pay for it is a 4 percent tax on income, exempting the first $29,000. So the average family in America that today makes $60,000 would pay $1,200 a year, compared to that family paying $12,000 a year. We save money, comprehensive health care, because we take on the greed and the profiteering and the administrative nightmare that currently exists in our dysfunctional system.
PHILLIP: Vice President Biden, does Senator Sanders owe voters a price tag on his health care plan?
BIDEN: I think we need to be candid with voters. I think we have to tell them what we're going to do and what it's going to cost. And a 4 percent tax on income over $24,000 doesn't even come close to paying for between $30 trillion, and some estimates as high as $40 trillion over 10 years.
That's doubling the entire federal budget per year. There's a way to do that. The way to do that is to take Obamacare, reinstate -- rebuild it, provide a public option, allow Medicare for those folks who want it, and in fact make sure that we, in the process, reduce the cost of -- of drug prices, reduce the cost of being able to buy into the -- subsidize it further, and make it everybody -- available to everyone. Here's the deal. That costs a lot of money. That costs $740 billion over 10 years. I lay out how I'd pay for that.
PHILLIP: Senator Sanders?
SANDERS: Well, first of all, what Joe forgets to say is, when you leave the current system as it is, what you are talking about are workers paying on average 20 percent of their incomes for health care. That is insane. You've got 500,000 people going bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills. We're spending twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country.
Look, we have talked about health care for all -- in this country -- for over 100 years. Now is the time to take on the greed and corruption of the health care industry, of the drug companies, and finally provide health care to all through a Medicare For All single- payer program. It won't be easy, but that is what we have to do.
BIDEN: You can do it without that. You can do it without Medicare For All. You can get the same place.
SANDERS: No, you can't.
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar, your response?
KLOBUCHAR: Yeah. Senator Sanders and I have worked together on pharmaceuticals for a long, long time. And we agree on this. But what I don't agree with is that we -- his position on health care. This debate isn't real. I was in Vegas the other day and someone said "Don't put your chips on a number on the wheel that isn't even on the wheel."
That's the problem. Over two-thirds of the Democrats in the U.S. Senate are not on the bill that you and Senator Warren are on. You have numerous governors that are Democratic that don't support this. You have numerous House members that put Nancy Pelosi in as speaker.
To her credit, Sen. Klobuchar was the only one to state flat-out that there's simply no way that Bernie's "pure" M4All bill will pass the U.S. Senate, even if the Democrats retake control this fall. None. Frankly, I'd be shocked if it passed the House, where it has substantially more support.
The answer is a nonprofit public option. The answer is -- the real debate we should be having is how do we make it easier for people to get coverage for addiction and mental health. I have a plan for that. And then, finally, what should we do about long-term care? The elephant that doesn't even fit in this room. We need to make it easier for people to get long-term care insurance. We need to make it easier for them to pay for their premiums.
My own dad, I know when his long-term care insurance ends, and then we have some savings for him. He's in assisted living. He got married three times -- whole other story -- so there isn't much there.
But then we go to Medicaid, and I've already talked to Catholic Elder Care....They're willing to take him in. Our story is better than so many other families. We have to make it easier for long-term care...It's not just for seniors. It's also for the sandwich generation.
PHILLIP: Senator Warren?
WARREN: So we need to start with what's happening in America. People are suffering. I'll just pick one: 36 million people last year went to the doctor, got a prescription, this is what they needed to get well, and they couldn't afford to have the prescription filled. They looked at it and said it's either groceries or this prescription. My approach to this is we've got to get as much as help to as many people as quickly as possible. I have worked out a plan where we can do that without raising taxes on middle-class families by one thin dime.
What I can do are the things I can do as president on the first day. We can cut the cost of prescription drugs. I'll use the power that's already given to the president to reduce the cost of insulin and EpiPens and HIV-AIDS drugs. Let's get some relief to those families. And I will defend the Affordable Care Act.
I've got a plan to expand health care, but let's keep in mind, when we come to a general election, we Democrats may argue among each other about the best way to do health care, but we're going to be up against a Republican incumbent who has cut health care for millions of people and is still trying to do that. I'll take our side of the argument any day. We're going to beat him on this.
This is the closest any of the candidates came to even indirectly referring to the lawsuit itself.
PHILLIP: Thank you. Thank you, Senator Warren. Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: The proposal I lay out does, in fact, limit drug cost. It sets up -- it allows all the drug companies -- excuse me, it allows you to -- Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for the price. It sets a system whereby you cannot raise the price of a drug beyond the cost of medical inflation. And by the way, there's mental health parity that I call for in the Obamacare expanded with the Biden option.
PHILLIP: Mr. Steyer?
STEYER: Look, we've had this conversation on this stage so many times. Everybody on this stage believes that affordable health care is a right for every single American. Everybody on this stage knows that Americans are paying twice as much for health care as any other advanced country in the world. And it makes no sense and the government has to step in.
I do happen to agree with Vice President Biden that we should move and develop the Affordable Care Act with a public option. But the real question is this. This is not a new problem. Why do we keep having this conversation? We have a broken government. It has been bought by corporations that include the drug companies, the insurance companies, and the private hospitals. That's what I'm talking about. How do we get back government of, by, and for the people? How do we actually break...the corporate stranglehold on our government so that we can get any of these things passed?
PHILLIP: ...Senator Sanders, your campaign proposals would double federal spending over the next decade, an unprecedented level of spending not seen since World War II. How would you keep your plans from bankrupting the country?
SANDERS: No, our plan wouldn't bankrupt the country. And, in fact, it would much improve the well-being of working-class families and the middle class. Let us be clear what Medicare for all does. It ends all premiums. It ends all copayments. It ends the absurdity of deductibles. It ends out-of-pocket expenses. It takes on the pharmaceutical industry, which in some cases charges us 10 times more for the same prescription drugs sold abroad as sold here.
What we will do through a Medicare for all single-payer program is substantially lower the cost of health care for employers and workers, because we end the $100 billion a year that the health care industry makes and the $500 billion a year we spend in administrative -- the administrative nightmare of dealing with thousands of separate insurance plans.
Health care is a human right. Every other major country on Earth is guaranteeing health care for all. The time is long overdue for us to do the same.
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Again, I think it is much better to build on the Affordable Care Act. And if you want to be practical and progressive at the same time and have a plan and not a pipedream, you have to show how you're going to pay for it. And I would also note practically that the Affordable Care Act right now is 10 points more popular than the president of the United States. So I think the answer is to build on it.
And, yes, I think you should show how you're going to pay for things, Bernie. I do. This president is treating people out there like poker chips in one of his bankrupt casinos the way he is adding to our debt. I am the one person up here who has on her website in her plan a plan to actually start taking on the deficit, by taking part of that money from that corporate tax cut that they put in there and putting it in a fund to pay back the deficit.
...And I have shown how I'm going to pay for every single plan...capital gains tax going to the personal level, getting rid of oil giveaways...Doing something about the hedge fund loophole. You can go through...and we can get the money to pay for things.
PHILLIP: Mayor Buttigieg, you're selling your plan as Medicare for all who want it, yet your plan would automatically enroll uninsured Americans into a public option, even if they don't want it, and force them to pay for it. How is that truth in advertising?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's making sure that there is no such thing as an uninsured American. Look, the individual mandate was an important part of the ACA because the system doesn't work if there are free riders. What I'm offering is a choice. You don't have to be in my plan if there's another plan that you would rather keep. And there's no need to kick Americans off the plans that they want in order to deliver health care for all.
This is interesting...to my knowledge, Buttigieg and Biden are the only candidates (even among the "moderates") who have stated that they want to bring back the individual mandate...and Buttigieg's "free riders" comment is the exact same language Mitt Romney used to use to defend it in Massachusetts.
And my plan is paid for. Look, our party should no longer hesitate to talk about the issue of the debt and the deficit. Now, we've got a dramatically better track record on it than Republicans do. In my lifetime, it's almost invariably Republican presidents who have added to the deficit, a trillion dollars under this president. And it's why everything I've put forward -- from Medicare for all who want it to the historic investments we're going to make in infrastructure to dealing with climate change -- is fully paid for.
When it comes to health care, you can do it in two moves. Of course, my plan costs $1.5 trillion over a decade. No small sum. But not the $20 trillion, $30 trillion, $40 trillion that we're hearing about from the others. All you've got to do is two things, both of them are commonsense. Allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and roll back the Trump corporate tax cuts that went to corporations and the wealthy that didn't even need it.
PHILLIP: Senator Warren?
WARREN: So I started this by talking about 36 million Americans, including Americans with insurance, who just can't even afford to have a prescription filled. We all talk about plans, health care plans that we have, and these plans are paid for.
The problem is that plans like the mayor's and like the vice president's is that they are an improvement. They are an improvement over where we are right now. But they're a small improvement. And that's why it is that they cost so much less, because by themselves, they're not going to be enough to cover prescriptions for 36 million people who can't afford to get them filled.
What we need to do is make the commitment that we know where the money comes from. We can ask those at the very top, the top 1 percent, to pay a little more. Those giant corporations like Chevron and Amazon who paid nothing in taxes, we can have them pay. And we can go after the corporate tax cheats. And when we do that, we have enough money to provide health care for all our people.
Yes, we build on the Affordable Care Act, but where we end up is we offer health care to all of our people. And we can offer it at no cost or low cost to all of them.
PHILLIP: Mayor Buttigieg?
BUTTIGIEG: It's just not true that the plan I'm proposing is small. We've got to move past a Washington mentality that suggests that the bigness of plans only consists of how many trillions of dollars they put through the Treasury, that the boldness of a plan only consists of how many Americans it can alienate. This would be a game-changer. This would be the biggest thing we've done to American health care in a half-century. Let's measure the effects of our plans based on what they would do in our everyday lives.
On this, I absolutely agree with Pete Buttigieg. All of the Democratic candidates' healthcare plans would be major improvements over the current system.
And, yes, we're taking on cost. On prescription drugs, we'll have an out-of-pocket cap, even if you don't get the subsidies that would make it free, a $250 monthly cap. And here's why it's got to be monthly. You ever been in that situation or known somebody who finds that they've got to defer a procedure or delay filling a prescription to try to have it happen in the right month because of when your out-of- pocket cap hits?
It makes no sense medically because most of us don't experience the economy on an annual basis. Our bills don't come in every year. They come in every month. Same with our paychecks, biweekly or monthly...That's why we set this up in a way to solve the problem without running up $20 trillion, $30 trillion, $40 trillion bills.
PHILLIP: Thank you, Mayor Buttigieg. Senator Warren, your response?
WARREN: Look, the numbers that the mayor is offering just don't add up. The average family in America last year paid $12,000 in some combination of deductibles and co-pays and uncovered expenses and fees. You can't cover that with the kind of money that the mayor is talking about. The way we have to approach this is we've got to build this and we've got to build the alliances to make this happen. I can bring down the cost of prescription drugs like insulin and take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the system immediately in costs. We can get help to families.
But we have to be willing to work together. We can let people experience what health care is like when it's you and your doctor, your mental health professional, your nurse practitioner, with no insurance company standing in the middle...When people try it and use it, then...
PHILLIP: Senator Klobuchar?
KLOBUCHAR: Senator Warren, you acknowledged that Medicare for all -- that you couldn't get there right away. You got on the bill that said on page eight, which is why I didn't get on it, that you would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance. Then, a few months ago, you said, no, you're going to wait a while to get there. And I think that was some acknowledgment that maybe what we're talking about is true. And I don't buy that it's not enough. It is a big, big step to say to people making $100,000 that your premiums will be cut in half, which is what the nonprofit public option will do.
And as you talk, Mayor Buttigieg, about Medicare and having negotiation, I actually have led that bill for years. I have 34 cosponsors. As president, I can get it done. That would allow Medicare to finally negotiate and lift the ban that big pharma got into law that says they can't negotiate for better prices for our seniors....I will get it done.
PHILLIP: Senator Sanders, coming to you now. CNN reached out to Iowa Democratic voters for their most pressing questions. Edward from here in Des Moines writes, "Des Moines is an insurance town. What happens to all the insurance industry -- the health insurance industry here if there is Medicare for all? What happens to all the jobs and the livelihoods of the people that live in insurance towns like Des Moines?"
SANDERS: We build in to our Medicare for all program a transition fund of many, many billions of dollars that will provide for up to five years income and health care and job training for those people. But here is the issue. Tom Steyer made the point a moment ago. We are now spending twice as much per person on health care as do the people of any other country. That is insane. In some cases, 10 times more for prescription drugs. Why is that? Why is that? And the answer is: the greed and corruption of the drug companies and the insurance companies.
Note how Sanders again attacks insurance and drug companies but fails to mention anything about hospitals or doctors. This is pretty standard for those arguing in favor of any major healthcare reform plan, actually...drug and insurance companies are easy to attack. Hospitals and doctors, not so much.
And if we want to do what every other major country on Earth does and guarantee people health care is a human right, not a privilege, you know what we have to do? We are finally going to have to stand up to the health care industry...and end hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and profiteering.
PHILLIP: Mr. Steyer?
STEYER: I just want to emphasize what Senator Sanders said. This is not a complicated problem. Between what Senator Warren and Senator Sanders said, it's clear. There are two problems. We're spending way too much because corporations own the system and we're not negotiating against those corporations. And we've given tax cuts to the richest Americans and the biggest corporations for decades. That's all this is. We have corporations who are having their way with the American people and people are suffering.
Sidenote: I can only think of one other Presidential candidate in recent memory who claimed that healthcare "isn't a complicated problem".
Senator Warren is right. This is cruelty for money. In order to break this, we're going to have to break the corporate stranglehold and solve both the tax and the negotiating problem. That's why I'm for term limits. We need to redo Washington, D.C., and...actually take back the government from the corporations who've bought it.
PHILLIP: Thank you, Mr. Steyer. Vice President Biden?
BIDEN: I would argue that the biggest breakthrough in recent time was us being able to do in our administration what five -- five Democratic presidents couldn't get done, and that is pass Obamacare. It was a big deal. Secondly, I would argue that the way you control drug prices is you limit what they can charge for those prices. You don't have to pay the price. Limit what they can charge. If, in fact, they charge more than we set the price for, they can -- they can, in fact -- we can -- people can import from abroad, assuming that it is -- it is -- it is safe.
We, in fact -- it's only yellow, Wolf, OK? And we can, in fact, do all of this and still provide people the option to stay -- the roughly 150 to 160 million Americans who like the negotiated plan they have with their employers. If they don't like it, or the employer gets rid of it, they can buy into a Medicare plan in the Biden plan.
The healthcare portion went on from here to cover prescription drugs, but I think you get my point.