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.
This coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our current health care system.
We are the only major country not to guarantee health care to all our people.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 16, 2020
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.
"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."
During a presidential debate, Democrat Joe Biden says: "I don't want to get this into a back and forth in terms of our politics."
IT'S A DEBATEpic.twitter.com/uKmAj8h1QQ
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) March 16, 2020
"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.
Biden says he doesn't want to get in a back-and-forth. That's the point. That is why you are on stage tonight. And this is what you say when you don't have a reasonable rebuttal to the thing that exposes your position as bullshit. Support Medicare For All, Joe #DemDebate
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) March 16, 2020