Trump, Biden clash over health care as debate begins


President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden clashed in the opening moments of Tuesday’s debate over the Trump administration’s effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court. 

The opening question of the first presidential debate was about the vacancy on the Supreme Court but Biden immediately pivoted to the issue of health care, driving home a theme that Democrats have been hammering all week: that the future of ObamaCare is at risk in the Supreme Court.

He pointed out Trump is supporting a GOP lawsuit seeking to end the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case just one week after Election Day, on Nov. 10. 

“He’s in the Supreme Court right now trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said. 

Trump frequently interrupted Biden and also sparred with moderator Chris Wallace when Wallace pressed the president on what his plan is to replace ObamaCare. 

“You have never in these four years come up with a plan,” Wallace said. 

“I got rid of the individual mandate,” Trump replied, referring to the law’s requirement that everyone have health insurance or pay a penalty. 

“That is not a comprehensive plan,” Wallace replied.  

Trump has never released a comprehensive plan of his own to replace the law, despite repeated promises to do so, but he did back a House GOP bill in 2017 that would have weakened ObamaCare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions by allowing states to get waivers that would allow insurers to charge sick people much higher premiums. 

Trump countered by accusing Biden of backing “Medicare for All,” saying “you’re going to extinguish 180 million people with their private health care.”

Biden does not support Medicare for All, though he does support giving people the option to enroll in a government-run “public option” plan if they choose to. 

Trump pointed to a “manifesto,” between Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), referring to a health care plan jointly devised by advisers to both men. But that plan does not call for the elimination of private insurance, instead calling for Biden’s optional government plan. 

When Trump said Biden agreed with Sanders, Biden replied “I beat Bernie Sanders.”

“Not by much,” Trump shot back.  

Biden pointed out the Trump-backed lawsuit would eliminate ObamaCare’s protections for people with preexisting conditions if it is successful, saying there are 100 million people with such conditions who would be impacted. Trump said that number is false.  

Estimates range from around 54 million people to around 130 million people with preexisting conditions, depending on the criteria for how severe a condition must be to be counted. If ObamaCare is struck down, people with preexisting conditions could be denied coverage if they could not get it from an employer and tried to buy coverage on the individual market.  

Trump also pointed to his efforts to lower drug prices, saying his actions on health care are real. “There’s nothing symbolic, I’m cutting drug prices, I’m going with favored nations,” he said. He has proposed a “most favored nation” plan to lower drug prices in Medicare by tying them to lower prices in other countries. But while that plan has been proposed, it has not actually gone into effect yet and it is unclear when or if it will. 

“He hasn’t lowered drug costs for anybody,” Biden said.  

Tags Bernie Sanders Chris Wallace Donald Trump Joe Biden Presidential Debate

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