Biden backers support public option on health care

Former vice president releases statements from Iowans critical of Warren's Medicare-for-all plan

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Saturday during the Finkenauer Fish Fry in Ceda
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Saturday during the Finkenauer Fish Fry in Cedar Rapids. Biden and fellow Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren have been sparring over health care in the past week. Warren supports a Medicare-for-all system, while Biden backs a public option that would give people the option of buying into Medicare. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — With the health care debate center stage in the Democratic presidential primary, Joe Biden’s campaign is producing testimony from Iowa political and labor leaders who support the former vice president and his policy.

The health care debate in the primary largely has been over whether Democrats should lead an expansion of the Affordable Care Act or a move to a Medicare-for-all system.

Biden, Pete Buttigieg and some other candidates have proposed various forms of an expansion of the current health care system with the introduction of a public option — a Medicare-like program that Americans under the age of 65 could choose to buy into. Supporters of such a system say it expands access to coverage without a mandate. Critics say it still would leave millions uncovered and would not reduce costs.

Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and some other candidates have proposed a Medicare-for-all health care system in which every American would be enrolled in a Medicare-like program, essentially eliminating private health insurance. Supporters of such a system say it would all but eliminate health care costs such as hospital bills, deductibles and co-pays. Critics point to its high price tag and the elimination of the option for Americans to maintain private insurance.

Ever since Warren this past Friday published her plan to pay for her Medicare-for-all proposal, the campaigns have been swapping criticisms and defenses.

The Biden campaign said Warren’s proposal was too optimistic in its projected savings and revenue, and said its tax on businesses would be felt by workers.

The U.S. senator from Massachusetts defended her plan by accusing the Biden campaign of using Republican talking points and suggested the former vice president is “running in the wrong presidential primary.”


Last Thursday, the Biden campaign published statements from Iowa supporters backing Biden’s health care policy. They included testimony from former Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, who has endorsed Biden, as well as union leaders in Iowa.

“As vice president, Joe Biden worked tooth-and-nail to make Obamacare the law of the land — and since then, 150,000 Iowans have gained access to affordable care,” Bill Gerhard, president of the Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council, said in a statement published by the Biden campaign. “As President, Joe Biden will build on Obamacare with a public, Medicare-like option for those who want it while also protecting organized labor’s hard-fought health care plans. Unfortunately, Senator Warren’s one-size-fits-all plan doesn’t add up for labor and working families, and would throw more than 1 million Iowans off employer-sponsored care. Joe Biden understands what labor’s fought for.”

Sarah Orwig, of Sioux City, a military veteran and Iowa Professional Fire Fighters Association trustee, said in a statement, “As firefighters, we put our lives on the line every single day — and we need a health care plan that works for us. Our insurance plans are one of the major benefits we bargained for — and under Sen. Warren’s plan, we’d lose all of it. We can’t afford double talk on such a critical issue, and firefighters applaud Joe Biden for putting forward a bold plan to build on Obamacare, reduce costs and protect workers’ benefits.”

Warren defended her health care policy and the fiscal projections, which she noted were certified by independent economists and a pair of former high-level Obama administration staffers.

Her campaign also noted its own support from organized labor, including from the national Service Employees International Union. Warren said her proposal includes a transition plan that “will take seriously and address substantively the concerns of unions, individuals with private insurance, hospitals, people who work for private health insurers, and medical professionals who worry about what a new system will mean for them.”

“After hearing from so many candidates about what’s not possible, I put out a plan to show that we can have Medicare-for-all and not increase taxes on middle-class families by one penny,” Warren said during a recent interview before a campaign event in Muscatine. “This plan is about giving Americans choice in their health care and eliminating the financial burden that is crushing American families right now.”

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