Biden, Sanders debate 'Medicare for All' as response to coronavirus

Biden, Sanders debate 'Medicare for All' as response to coronavirus

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll The Memo: Political world grapples with long coronavirus shutdown The Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Sanders still sees 'narrow path' to Democratic presidential nomination Tenants call on lawmakers to pass rent freezes MORE (I-Vt.) took their long-running fight over health care into the coronavirus era on Sunday night, sparring over whether 'Medicare for All' would help solve the current pandemic.

Sanders argued that his signature universal health care plan would shore up the nation’s patchwork health care system and make treatment for the coronavirus more affordable and available.

"One of the reasons we are unprepared is we don’t have a system," Sanders said. "We’ve got thousands of private insurance plans. That is not a system."

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He said the coronavirus exposes the "incredible weakness" of the U.S. health care system, noting that millions of people are uninsured or underinsured and could have trouble paying for coronavirus treatment.

"With all due respect to Medicare for All, you have a single-payer system in Italy," countered Biden, pointing to a country that is in crisis now because of the coronavirus and arguing that the government's involvement in the health care system has not saved it.

As for fighting the coronavirus itself, Biden and Sanders trained more of their fire at President TrumpDonald John TrumpIllinois governor says state has gotten 10 percent of medical equipments it's requested Biden leads Trump by 6 points in national poll Tesla offers ventilators free of cost to hospitals, Musk says MORE’s response than on each other.

Sanders put out a call to “shut this president up right now ... because he is undermining the doctors and the scientists.”

Biden called for using the World Health Organization’s test kits to expand testing capacity, something the Trump administration has faced criticism for not doing. He also called for using the military to help expand hospital capacity and set up temporary hospitals.

Biden repeatedly pointed to his time as vice president fighting the Ebola crisis in Africa and did not directly answer a question about whether he would order people to stay in their homes by saying he would listen to experts like he did during the Ebola crisis.

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Sanders took a signature swipe at the pharmaceutical industry, which is in the process of research on coronavirus treatments and vaccines, warning that there would be “profiteering” on those products and saying that the pharmaceutical industry is run by “crooks.”

Continuing his attack on the health care industry, Sanders noted some of it is “funding the vice president’s campaign.”

The more forceful clash was over Medicare for All, as it has been throughout the primary.

“People are looking for results, not a revolution,” Biden said, crystallizing his more incremental approach as opposed to Sanders's sweeping call for revolution.

“He still hasn’t told you how he’s going to get it passed,” Biden said, or “how he’s going to pay for it.”

He pointed to his plan for an optional government health insurance plan, saying it is more achievable. “I can get that passed. I can get that done,” Biden said.