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Democratic Presidential candidates debate health care reform

Written by Diane Archer

One of the biggest differences among the Democratic presidential candidates is where they stand on health care reform. During the debates last week, we saw that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are big proponents of Medicare for All; and, Kamala Harris understands the value of Medicare for All and the costs of relying on commercial health insurance to cover our health care. Most of the other candidates mistakenly seem to believe we can lower health care costs sufficiently through a “public option,” sometimes called Medicare for some.

Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, and Beto O’Rourke are not calling for Medicare for All, even though it guarantees people coverage with full choice of doctors and hospitals and no out-of-pocket costs. They say they want to give people the choice of Medicare, because it offers more choice and let’s people keep the coverage they have if they’d like.

These candidates want to allow people to choose costly private health plans with restricted networks of doctors and hospitals. What they don’t seem to appreciate is that public option plans (Medicare for some) may sound good, but they do not drive down health care costs sufficiently and keep health care unaffordable for most people.

Virtually every American wants access to private health care from private doctors and private hospitals, which is exactly what Medicare for All offers.  Do people really care whether public or private insurance pays their bills? Do they understand that only if public insurance pays their bills will their costs come down?

Mayor Bill deBlasio of New York City, another supporter of Medicare for All, challenged O’Rourke on his position. “Congressman O’Rourke, private insurance is not working for tens of millions of Americans when you talk about the co-pays, the deductibles, the premiums, the out of pocket expenses. It’s not working.” “How can you defend a system that’s not working?” O’Rourke had no good answer.

Former Congressman John Delaney did not appear to appreciate the twisted logic of his argument against Medicare for All, which he based on statements from hospital CEOs. Of course, they oppose Medicare for All. Their self-interest is in ensuring they receive as high rates as possible.

The majority of candidates demonized pharmaceutical companies and said they want lower drug prices. But, you need to read between the lines. Senator Klobuchar wants Medicare drug price negotiation, which does nothing to help the 170 million people with job-based coverage. She appears to want to allow working people to import drugs from abroad, which is at best a short-term solution.

In sharp contrast, Senator Cory Booker is sponsoring Senator Sanders’ bill calling for international reference pricing for drugs, essentially, paying the average of what other wealthy countries pay. That proposal should cut drug prices for everyone in half.  Senator Warren has her own bill to bring down drug prices for everyone.

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