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Joe Biden pushes public option as affordable, practical health care in Iowa visit

Former vice president campaigns in Williamsburg, watches Holiday Bowl with Coralville mayor

WILLIAMSBURG — Joe Biden admits his health care plan, which calls for building on the best of the Affordable Care Act, will cost a lot of money — $750 billion over 10 years.

“But it doesn’t cost $30 trillion — trillion,” the Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president said Friday in Williamsburg.

It also has the advantage of being implemented much sooner than the four- to 10-year transitions other candidates talk about.

“People need hope. They need security. They need certainty now, and I think we can get it done,” Biden said after speaking to more than 100 people at the Williamsburg middle school.

Like many in Biden’s audience, Lois Berry of Williamsburg was concerned about health care. She hasn’t decided who she will caucus for Feb. 3.

“There are several I’m thinking about,” she said, adding that she has several concerns. One is “Medicare for All.”

“It could be a problem,” she said. Berry is leaning toward Biden’s approach of Medicare for All “maybe in time, but not right away.”

“Keep Obamacare and make it better,” she said.

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Biden thinks the price tag on Medicare for All plans not only will scare voters, “but it’s not practical.”

“It’s a staggering number — more money per year than the entire federal budget,” he said.

Today, 16 percent of Americans are on Medicare, “and you’re going to add another 84 percent — 280 million at one time — and everybody’s taxes aren’t going to go up to pay for it?” Biden said. “Middle-class people are going to be worse off than they are paying for their insurance now.”

Biden, who will campaign Saturday in Tipton, Washington and Fairfield, also spoke about the prospects of an impeachment trial.

“There’s nothing happy about them,” he said, noting that as a senator he witnessed two impeachment investigations. “They’re hard on the country, and there is nothing to celebrate about them.

“Donald Trump brought this on himself,” Biden said, and Congress had no choice “but to meet its constitutional responsibility regardless of what the political consequences were.”

It means that the next president be able to unify the country.

“Our democracy is literally in trouble,” he said. “We’re at a breaking point, and we need a president who will rise above personal attacks and reach out to try to unify the country.”

Some of his detractors say he is naive to believe that’s possible in the current hyperpartisan political atmosphere.

“But that’s what presidential leadership is about,” Biden said.

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That’s what Janis Bultman of Coralville is looking for — “presidential material.”

Bultman, who also has seen South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, describes that as “someone who says the right things and has the ability to get things done.”

“They all have strengths, so it’s good to hear them all,” she said.

Later, Biden stopped in Coralville at the home of Mayor John Lundell to watch the Iowa Hawkeye football team kick off the Holiday Bowl game in San Diego.

Biden will be back in Eastern Iowa next week with stops in Cedar Rapids, Anamosa, Manchester and Independence.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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