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Joe Biden Tells MSNBC Viewers He Would Veto Medicare For All

Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate, told MSNBC viewers that he would veto Medicare For All if he was elected to the White House.

In every state primary or caucus, around fifty percent or more have indicated they support replacing private health insurance with a single-payer universal health care system.

The night before another round of primaries, including a major primary in Michigan, Biden finally agreed to do a television interview with MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell after declining to appear on Rachel Maddow’s program the previous week.

Caption: On MSNBC, Joe Biden Says He Would Veto Medicare For All.
(Video is from MSNBC and covered under fair use as this clip is necessary for news and commentary.)

“Let’s flash forward. You’re President. Bernie Sanders is still active in the Senate. He manages to get Medicare For All through the Senate in some compromise version, the Elizabeth Warren version,” O’Donnell said. “Nancy Pelosi gets a version of it through the House of Representatives. It comes to you. Do you veto it?”

“I would veto anything that delays providing the security and the certainty of health care being available now,” Biden answered. “If they get that through, and by some miracle there was an epiphany that occurred, and some miracle occurred that said, okay, it’s passed, then you’ve got to look at the costs.”

“I want to know how did they find the $35 trillion. What is that doing? Is it going to significantly raise taxes on the middle class? Which it will. What’s going to happen?”

Biden continued, “Look, my opposition is not to the principle that they should have Medicare. Everybody—health care should be a right in America. My opposition relates to whether or not (a) it’s doable, two, what the cost is and what the consequences for the rest of the budget are.”

“How are you going to find $35 trillion over the next ten years without having some profound impacts on everything from taxes for the middle class and working class people as well as the impact on the rest of the budget?”

Bien was referring to a study that showed over ten years cost would be $32 trillion. And according to Vox’s Dylan Scott, it may be “kind of a bargain,”  because the “federal government is going to spend a lot more money on health care, but the country is going to spend about the same.” There would be more services and more people covered for the same price, more or less.

Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazarus also described the price tag as a bargain. The cost over the next ten years would be lower than currently projected health care costs.

“What Democrats have done a terrible job communicating is that we’re currently spending $3.6 trillion a year on healthcare,” Lazarus wrote. “That translates to $36 trillion over the next decade.”

“But the status quo is actually way worse than that. The federal government estimates that national healthcare spending will total about $48 trillion over the next 10 years, as costs keep going up,” Lazarus additionally noted.

A different study that was produced by economists and published in February found Medicare For All would be considerably less expensive.

“The current system is particularly burdensome for middle-income working households who receive relatively little support through Medicaid or other public programs but are responsible for health insurance premiums either paid directly or by their employer as non-wage compensation,” the study from the Hopbrook Institute found. “A system that cuts costs and shifts financing to income and wealth taxes will dramatically lower this burden, producing significant savings for workers and businesses.”

Biden was a bit unclear in his remark, but the supposed concern about delays and “certainty of health care being available” is a health insurance industry talking point that he has repeated.

On July 15, during a forum hosted by AARP, he suggested Sanders’ plan for a multi-stage process to phase-in an expanded Medicare system that covered all Americans would result in “hiatuses,” which would cause people with cancer to die.

“How many of you have lost a husband, wife, son, daughter to cancer? Raise your hand,” Biden said. “How many (inaudible) have terminal diseases, raise your hand, that lost them? Well, you know, the thing I’ve learned is every second counts. It’s not about a year. It’s about the day, the week, the month, the next six months. It’s about hope. And if you have these hiatuses, it may, it may, this may go as smooth, as my grandpappy said, smooth as silk. But the truth of the matter is it’s likely to be a bumpy ride getting to where we’re going.”

CNN fact-checked Biden’s misinformation and concluded a “single-payer Medicare For All plan would not result in people having a ‘hiatus,’ or gap, in their insurance coverage.”

O’Donnell also asked Biden about Sanders’ argument that the threat of the coronavirus demonstrates why Medicare For All is needed.

“You don’t have to do Medicare For All for that. The Biden proposal, you’d be covered for all of this,” Biden replied. “Everyone would be covered under taking Obamacare, restoring the cuts that have been made, and putting in a public option, a Medicare-like option.”

“Let’s assume everybody had Medicare covering everything now. Do you think people would be any less concerned? I don’t think so.”

“But they’d know how they were going to get their service,” O’Donnell said.

Not to mention, as former health insurance communications director Wendell Potter previously outlined on MSNBC, there are more than 50 million who are underinsured.

The present system that Biden champions limits access to doctors and hospitals, and like Potter emphasized, it makes “doctors beg for approval to get coverage” to treat patients.

A day after the interview, Potter responded on Twitter, “Joe Biden expressed concern over the potential cost of Medicare For All and the security of people’s health plans. I recognize these arguments because I helped craft them when I ran PR as an insurance executive. As I result, I feel obligated to set the record straight.”

He contended that Biden’s claim that Medicare would cost an “extra $35 trillion” is wrong because a peer-reviewed Yale study showed it would save taxpayers $450 billion annually by “eliminating waste and industry greed.”

According to Potter, Biden wants to keep the current system and add a public option, which would likely cost far more than Medicare For All because his plan would cap premiums at 8.5 percent of a person’s income. Medicare For All would charge only four percent.

“Despite my old industry’s spin, folks with corporate insurance plans have no security or choice. Unlike with Medicare For All, you can lose your health plan if switch jobs, turn 26, lose a job, or if your boss decides to change plans,” Potter added. “Having insurance doesn’t make you secure if you get sick. You still have to deal with deductibles, surprise bills, and claim denials.”

Potter contends the widespread support for Medicare For All in exit polls in primaries is a “watershed moment in America.”

“We’re talking conservative southern states, like my native Tennessee, where Democrats want to replace for-profit insurance with single-payer, and northeastern states, like Vermont and Maine, where over seven in 10 Democrats are ready to end the current system bankrupting and killing millions.”

“It’s time to say it: Medicare For All is now the mainstream, popular, nationwide consensus position for the Democratic Party in 2020. Voters are sick and tired of awful deductibles, surprise bills, stifling networks, and begging strangers for help with medical bills on GoFundMe,” Potter declared.

Yet, the Democratic Party establishment has fought against the Sanders campaign, the one campaign that has backed Medicare For All with total clarity since early 2019.

After Biden’s decisive victories on Super Tuesday, health insurance corporations, like Anthem, Cigna, and UnitedHealth Group, saw their stocks surge higher.

It is clear if Democrats nominate Biden the health insurance and health care industries will be big winners.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."