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Debating Bernie on Medicare for All and Coronavirus, Biden Declares: 'I Don't Want to Get This Into a Back and Forth in Terms of Our Politics'

"This coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our current health care system," said Sanders. "We need Medicare for All."

Democratic presidential hopefuls former US vice president Joe Biden (L) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (R) take part in the 11th Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Democratic presidential hopefuls former US vice president Joe Biden (L) and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (R) take part in the 11th Democratic Party 2020 presidential debate in a CNN Washington Bureau studio in Washington, DC on March 15, 2020. (Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

As Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders debated Sunday night over the failures of the U.S. healthcare system that have been dramatically exposed by the current coronavirus pandemic rattling the nation, Biden argued against the need for Medicare for All, defended the private insurance industry, and said now was not the time to debate key ideological differences.

"This coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our current health care system," Sanders said during an exchange early in the debate as he advocated for his Medicare for All plan in the context of the current crisis.

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Biden argued coronavirus testing and treatment should be free to all Americans to combat the current outbreak, but continued to espouse his belief that such a policy should not be extended for other diseases or illnesses.

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"Look, this is a national crisis," said Biden. "I don't want to get this into a back and forth in terms of our politics."

"This is like we are being attacked from abroad," Biden said. "This is a war. And in a war, you do whatever it takes to take care of your people."

Strikingly, as Sanders and others noted, the war analogy deployed by Biden does not—in the current for-profit system—extend to people at risk of economic bankruptcy or death from health threats other than COVID-19.

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