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The Biden campaign ad doesn't mention Medicare for All, but critics interpreted its message as an attack on single-payer. (Photo: Joe Biden/Twitter)

'A Message That Would Fit Just Fine in a Paul Ryan Speech': Biden Pilloried for Ad Celebrating Private Health Insurance Industry

"This web ad from Joe Biden attempts to pit working people and generations against one another to perpetuate a broken healthcare system that values health insurance CEOs' paychecks over people's lives."

Jake Johnson

Former Vice President Joe Biden doubled down on his defense of the private insurance industry Friday by releasing an ad that critics slammed as a dishonest celebration of America's fundamentally broken healthcare system.

The ad, which Biden posted on Twitter, is framed as a defense of the Affordable Care Act, but critics immediately interpreted its message as a not-so-subtle dig at Medicare for All.

"Is Joe Biden running for president of the United States or the private health insurance fan club? It's hard to say at this point."
—Libby Watson, Splinter

The video features a retired union worker named Marcy, who explains how she and her husband "earned" their private insurance and would "prefer to keep the Affordable Care Act."

"I have my own private insurance," Marcy says. "I don't want to lose it."

The underlying implication of Marcy's message, as Splinter's Libby Watson wrote, "is that if you didn't work, you didn't earn your healthcare, and you don't deserve what she has—private, better healthcare than Medicare for All, or whatever the masses get."

"Is Joe Biden running for president of the United States or the private health insurance fan club? It's hard to say at this point," said Watson. "This is a message that would fit in just fine in a Paul Ryan speech. (This is not Marcy's fault, mind you—it's the message Joe Biden wants you to hear.)"


Democracy for America (DFA), a progressive advocacy group, condemned Biden's ad as an attempt to "pit working people and generations against one another to perpetuate a broken healthcare system that values health insurance CEOs' paychecks over people's lives."

"We know a better world is possible," DFA tweeted, "and that's why we fight for Medicare for All."

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) 2020 presidential campaign also hit back at Biden, who has attacked Medicare for All with right-wing talking points on the campaign trail in recent days.

"Joe Biden releases a new ad for private health insurance companies," tweeted Josh-Miller Lewis, Sanders' digital communications director.

Marissa Barrera, Sanders' health policy adviser, said she doesn't understand how 'I like my private health insurance' is a valid argument against Medicare for All."

"If you have a great coverage, congratulations! You’re the exception," tweeted Barrera. "Medicare for All is going to give that level of coverage to everyone and improve your care, too."

The Biden campaign ad comes two weeks after the former vice president unveiled his healthcare proposal, which would expand ACA subsidies and create a public option.

"If you like your healthcare plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it," Biden said of his plan during an AARP forum earlier this month. "If you like your private insurance, you can keep it."

Sanders, the lead Senate sponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2019, has called into question the notion that most Americans like their private insurance and would prefer to hold on to it rather than switch to single-payer.

On Friday, just hours after Biden posted his ad, Sanders posted this campaign video on the need for Medicare for All to his Twitter feed:

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, a Morning Consult/Politico poll found that 55 percent of voters, and 78 percent of Democrats, support a Medicare for All plan that phases out private insurance, as long as they are able to keep their providers.

The Sanders campaign said in a statement at the time that the numbers "only affirm what the senator has said many times: people don't like insurance companies, they like their doctors and their hospitals."

"Despite what the pharmaceutical and insurance industries will tell you," the campaign said, "Medicare for All is the only proposal that gives Americans the freedom to control their own futures—change jobs, start a family, start a business—and keep their doctor."

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