Former vice president and Democratic front-runner Joe Biden said in a televised interview Monday that, if elected President, he would veto a “Medicare for All” proposal if it undermined the “security and certainty” of health care provision.
Biden, whose press team did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on his comments, made the remarks when asked by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell if he would veto the universal health care bill advanced by a number of Democrat presidential hopefuls, including Biden’s chief rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“Veto question. 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 compromised version, the Elizabeth Warren version or other version. Nancy Pelosi gets a version of it through the House of Representatives,” O’Donnell asked Biden. “It comes to your desk. Do you veto it?”
Biden said that for him to veto the bill, it would have to pose a threat to the stable provision of health care under status quo arrangements. In his response, he also touched on concerns around affordability.
“I would veto anything that delays providing a security and certainty of healthcare being available now,” Biden said. “If they got that through by some miracle, or there was an epiphany that occurred and some miracle occurred that said ‘ok it’s passed,’ then you’ve got to look at the cost. 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?”
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“Look, my opposition isn’t to the principle that we should have Medicare. Healthcare should be a right in America,” Biden continued. “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 10 years without having profound impacts on everything from taxes for middle-class and working-class people, as well as the impact on the rest of the budget?” he added.
Estimates vary on the cost of “Medicare for All.” The bipartisan public policy organization Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget published a range of estimates ranging from $28-32 trillion over a decade. A paper cited in PLOS Medicine evaluated 22 cost projections and concluded a single-payer system could provide long-term net savings to Americans compared to the current arrangement.
An oft-cited objection to a single-payer system is that while it might make health care more affordable, its quality would suffer.
Chris Jacobs, author of “The Case Against Single Payer: How ‘Medicare for All’ Will Wreck America’s Health Care System―And Its Economy,” said in a recent interview with The Epoch Times’ program “American Thought Leaders” that a “Medicare for All” scheme would cause demand to spike and quality to drop.
“As anyone who’s ever been to an all-you-can-eat buffet knows, making something free means you want to consume more of it. Now I don’t think people will voluntarily sign up for heart surgery because it’s free, but you will see additional demand for health care,” Jacobs said.
The result, Jacobs said, would be longer wait times and less access to care, especially in highly specialized fields.
On his campaign website, Biden outlines his health care plan, which involves building on Obamacare, while leaving the underlying structure intact.
“As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law—including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats,” Biden says on the site, essentially proposing to keep private insurance, cap premiums, expand subsidy eligibility, and add a public option.