5 Healthcare Takeaways From the Democratic Debates

June 28, 2019
Jaime Rosenberg
Jaime Rosenberg

American voters have made it clear that healthcare is a top priority in the upcoming election, and the topic also emerged as a top priority during the 2 nights of the Democratic debates.

American voters have made it clear that healthcare is a top priority in the upcoming election, and the topic also emerged as a top priority during the 2 nights of the Democratic debates. Here are 5 takeaways:

1. Medicare for All

On the first night of debates, Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said she was with Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, in his push for Medicare for all. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was the only other candidate to voice support for such legislation. Meanwhile, Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, voiced concern over “kicking half of America off their health insurance in 4 years.”

The following night, Sanders opened up the second night of debates by calling healthcare a human right and arguing that the country must pass a Medicare for all, single-payer system. When asked if they would support eliminating private insurance, Senator Kamala Harris, D-California, was the only other presidential hopeful to voice her support; however, the next day she seemed to backtrack and said that she misheard the question. Other candidates, like Major Pete Buttigieg; Senator Kristen Gillibrand, D-New York; and Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, instead highlighted the importance of transitioning from our current health system to a public option approach, such as allowing people to buy into Medicare, would offer a “glide path” to universal coverage.

2. Healthcare for Undocumented Immigrants

On the second night of debates, all 10 candidates said their healthcare plans would include coverage for undocumented immigrants.

When asked why, Buttigieg said, “Our country is healthy when everybody is healthy. Remember, we’re talking about something people are given a chance to buy into in the same way that there are undocumented immigrants in my community who pay. They pay sales taxes, they pay property taxes directly or indirectly. This is not a handout, this is an insurance program and we do ourselves no favors by having 11 million undocumented people in our country be unable to access healthcare.”

Biden agreed, saying, “You cannot let people who are sick, no matter where they come from, no matter what their status, go uncovered.”

3. Affordable Care Act

Standing by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), former Vice President Joe Biden said the best way to ensure Americans have coverage that they can afford is to build on the legislation and promised to oppose any Democrat or Republican who tried to repeal it.

“The quickest, fastest way to do it is build on Obamacare, to build on what we did,” he said.

4. Reproductive Health

During the debates, the topic of abortion unsurprisingly was brought to the forefront, which also brought tension among candidates.

“It should not be an option in the United States of America for any insurance company to deny women coverage for their exercise of their right of choice,” said Governor Jay Inslee, D-Washington, on the first night of debates. “And I am the only candidate here who has passed a law protecting a woman’s right of reproductive health in health insurance.”

Firing back at Inslee, Klobuchar said, “there’s 3 women up here that have fought pretty hard for a woman’s right to choose,” referring to herself, Warren, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, D-Texas, said underscored the importance of not just reproductive rights but also reproductive justice.

“What that means is that just because a women—or let’s not forget someone in the trans community, a trans female—is poor, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have the right to exercise that right to choose.

5. Drug prices

During the debates, Warren accused drug companies of “rigging” the American Economy in favor of corporate interests, and Klobuchar said the drug industry “thinks they own Washington.” Senator Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Representative Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, also criticized drug companies, saying pharmaceutical executives were to blame for fueling the opioid crisis and calling out Purdue Pharma by name.

“They should be held criminally liable, because they are liable,” said Booker, who noted that he vowed to not take contributions from drug companies or pharmaceutical executives.

Shifting to drug policies, Klobuchar spoke out against the 2017 Republican policy that cut corporate tax rates, which she said saved the industry $100 billion.