Only two Democratic presidential candidates focused on health care during their opening statements during the second round of primary debates, but moderators chose to start the night off by pressing the politicians on the topic.
The candidates’ talking points largely dealt with their alignment, or lack thereof, with Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for all plan, which is more extreme than most of them say they are comfortable with.
Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney attacked Sanders’s Medicare for all plan early on, sticking by his characterization of the plan as bad policy. (RELATED: Low-Polling Democrat Challenges Bernie Sanders On Medicare For All: ‘Why Do We Gotta Be The Party Of Taking Something Away?’)
“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 with private health insurance their health insurance is illegal,” Delaney said. “My dad, the union electrician, loved the health care he got from the IVW. 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 to underfund the industry.”
Delaney touted his promise of “universal health care with choice” and his background as a health care company CEO during his opening statement. Sanders, the other candidate who focused on health care in his opening statement, criticized the status quo.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren disagreed with Delaney’s statements, cementing her latecomer support for Medicare for all as a presidential candidate. Warren was known as the woman with a plan, but has not put forward her own major health care plan specifically — something voices from the left criticized her for. However, she would not promise taxes to keep the same for middle class families if health care became taxpayer-funded.
“Costs will go up for billionaires and go up for corporations. For middle-class families, total costs will go down,” she said.
Sanders has admitted his plan will raise taxes for regular people.
The focus on health care comes after the Democrats’ successful midterm messaging on the topic. Health care is one of the top three issues that Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents want to hear about during the second Democratic presidential debate, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll published Tuesday.