Sanders criticizes Biden health plan: 'It doesn't go anywhere near far enough'

Sanders criticizes Biden health plan: 'It doesn't go anywhere near far enough'
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Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersHarris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues Lee, Sanders introduce bill to tax Wall Street transactions MORE (I-Vt.) criticized his 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE’s health care plan on Wednesday, saying it falls short of needed changes.

“It doesn't go anywhere near far enough,” Sanders told reporters in the Capitol when asked about the former vice president’s plan. “It will be expensive, it will not cover a whole lot of people.”

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The remarks mark relatively rare direct criticism of a rival candidate in the early stages of the Democratic presidential primary. Biden and Sanders are leading in early polls, with Biden occupying a more moderate lane in contrast to Sanders’s proudly leftward stances.

Biden on Monday called for giving everyone the chance to buy into Medicare, a kind of public option for health insurance that does not go as far as Sanders’s proposal to require everyone to be covered by Medicare.

“We have a system now which is dysfunctional,” Sanders added on Wednesday. “We spend twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other nation, and yet we have tens of millions of people uninsured, underinsured and we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.”

Biden on Monday framed his plan as allowing for more consumer choice, without directly mentioning Sanders.

“Your choice," Biden said. "And if the insurance company isn't doing the right thing by you, you should have another choice."

Health care is one of the major dividing lines in the emerging Democratic primary contest. Sanders has set a benchmark with his signature "Medicare for all" proposal, which some contenders like Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE (D-Calif.) have thrown their support behind.

But other candidates are declining to go that far, instead saying they think private insurance should remain as an option alongside Medicare. Biden, as well as former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeCNN's O'Rourke town hall finishes behind Fox News, MSNBC Biden retains large lead over Sanders, other 2020 Dems in new Hill-HarrisX poll The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE (D-Texas) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign 2020 Dems put spotlight on disabilities issues MORE, are major backers of that approach.