Joe Biden and Kamala Harris spar over health care plans

Renewing their feud from the first debate in Miami last month, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris — two of the highest-polling candidates in the crowded primary — took turns criticizing their respective health care plans at the second night of the second Democratic debate.

Biden cast Harris’ proposal to build a “Medicare for All” system with a role for employer-sponsored private insurance as unrealistic, while the California senator denounced the former vice president’s plan to add a so-called “public option” to the system created by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act as insufficient.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris during the Democratic debate in Detroit on July 31, 2019. Getty

Biden accused Harris of endorsing different plans and expressed skepticism about her current proposal, which he said would take 10 years to accomplish, cost $3 trillion and lead to people loosing their private employer-based insurance. 

“This is the single most important issue facing the public,” the former Delaware senator said. “And to be very blunt and to be very straightforward, you can’t beat President Trump with double talk on this plan.”

Harris swiftly responded, saying Biden was “simply inaccurate.”

“Under our plan, we will ensure that everyone has access to healthcare. Your plan, by contrast, leaves out almost 10 million Americans,” Harris said, pointing directly at the former vice president. “So, I think that you should really think about what you’re saying, but be reflective and understand that the people of America want access to health care — and do not want cost to their barrier to getting it.”

After Biden and Harris sparred, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the more progressive candidates on stage Wednesday night, suggested that both Biden and Harris’ plans were too timid and would not offer all Americans adequate and affordable health care.  

“I don’t understand why Democrats on this stage are fear-mongering about universal health care. It makes no sense,” de Blasio, who supports a single-payer “Medicare for All” system, told the audience.

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