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Democratic Debate Again Centers on Deep Divides Over Health Care

Yuval Rosenberg

Democratic presidential candidates held their third debate Thursday night, and once again a sizable portion of the debate — 21%, according to a Bloomberg analysis — was devoted to health care policy. “If the debates are any indicator, health care is shaping up as the hallmark issue of the 2020 Democratic primary,” Bloomberg’s reporters noted. Health care has been the most-discussed issue at each of the three Democratic debates so far, as this Bloomberg chart shows.


“Once the health-care segment got under way, the gloves came off and the knives came out,” The Atlantic’s Olga Khazan writes.

Joe Biden used an early question on whether Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are pushing too far to the left to launch into a defense of his public option proposal and to attack the costs of switching to a government-run Medicare-for-All system, which both senators support. “How are we going to pay for it? I want to hear that tonight how that’s happening,” he asked.

Warren then was asked if she, like Sanders, would admit that middle-class taxes would go up to pay for her health care plan. She didn’t respond directly, instead making the argument that Medicare for All would lead to total lower health care spending than the current system — a claim that depends greatly on the assumptions made about the new system.

“Look, what families have to deal with is cost, total cost,” she said. “And the answer is on Medicare for All, costs are going to go up for wealthier individuals and costs are going to go up for giant corporations. But for hard-working families across this country, costs are going to go down and that’s how it should work under Medicare-for-all in our health care system.”

The bottom line: “There wasn't any health care news made last night, despite its prominence as a 2020 campaign issue,” Axios’s Caitlin Owens writes.

Reminder: We’ve still got nearly five months to go before the Iowa caucuses — and 416 days until the November elections.

For more on the health care debate, read the transcript or stories at NPR, The Washington Post and The Atlantic.

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