Healthcare and Medicare for All didn’t dominate the debate this time around.
The moderators’ healthcare questions didn’t come until nearly an hour into the Democratic debate on Tuesday night in Des Moines, Iowa. Questions about Iran and about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) claim that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said a woman could not win the presidency kicked off the night.
The Democrats fell along the same lines on Medicare for All. Warren and Sanders are still pushing to end private insurance entirely, while former vice president Joe Biden, South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tom Steyer favor an opt-in Medicare approach.
Moderators questioned the candidates on how they plan to pay for their respective healthcare plans. Warren touted the wealth tax, while Sanders acknowledged, once again, that taxes would increase for the average person under his plan.
“Let us be clear, what Medical for All does is it ends all premiums, all copayments, the absurdity of deductibles, ends out-of-pocket payments and ends drug industry greed,” Sanders said.
Buttigieg said his opt-in “Medicare for all who want it” plan could be paid for with two steps: rolling back President Trump’s corporate tax cuts and allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.
Questions then turned to drug prices.
Warren defended her proposal to allow the government to manufacture drugs, saying it would increase competition and end the patent thickets that keep generic drug companies from making certain drugs.
“Let’s give [drugmakers] a little competition,” she said. “The government lets contracts to build buildings and military weapons, let’s put contracts out to get more generic drugs out there, to make the markets work for us.”
Several candidates mentioned allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, including Buttigieg and Klobuchar. Biden proposed preventing drugmakers from hiking their prices beyond inflation and Buttigieg discussed a $250 per month cap on consumer drug costs. Klobuchar also expressed support for importing lower cost drugs from other countries.
The Iowa Democratic caucuses are about two weeks away, on Feb. 3, which will officially kick off the election season.