During Sunday evening’s Democratic debate in Washington, D.C., between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the coronavirus was a hot topic.
Near the beginning of the debate, moderator Jake Tapper of CNN asked Sanders about how the United States might avoid ending up in the same situation as Italy, where stories have emerged of a massively overburdened health care system.
“If you were president, right now, what would you do to make sure every sick American is able to get treatment so the U.S. does not suffer the same fate as Italy, where doctors have to decide right now who gets life-saving treatment and who does not?” asked Tapper.
Sanders replied, but steered clear of the portion of Tapper’s question pertaining the Italian health care system:
Jake, lets be honest, and understand that this coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and disfunctionality of our current health care system. Now, we are spending twice as much per person on health care as the people of any other country. How in god’s name does it happen that we end up with 87 million people who are uninsured or underinsured – and there are people who are watching this program tonight who’re saying, “I’m not feeling well. Should I go to the doctor? But I can’t afford to go to the doctor! What happens if I am sick? It’s going to cost thousands of dollars for treatment! Who’s going to feed my kids?”
We are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people. We’re spending so much money, and yet we are not even prepared for this pandemic. How come we don’t have enough doctors? How come hospitals in rural areas are shutting down? How come people can’t afford to get the prescription drugs they need? Because we have a bunch of crooks who are running the pharmaceutical industry ripping us off every single day. And I’ll tell you something right now. In the midst of this epidemic, you’ve got people in the pharmaceutical industry who are saying, “Oh wow, what an opportunity to make a fortune.”
So the word has got to go out – I certainly would do this as President – you don’t worry, people of America, do not worry about the cost of prescription drugs, do not worry about the cost of the health care that you’re going to get because we are a nation, a civilized democratic society, everybody, rich and poor, middle class, will get the care they need. The drug companies will not rip us off.
When former Vice President Biden took the next question, he used it as an opportunity to jab Sanders over his previous answer.
“With all due respect to Medicare for All, you have a single-payer system in Italy. It doesn’t work there,” Biden said. “It has nothing to do with Medicare for All. That would not solve the problem at all.”
The former vice president then laid out his plan for those who need testing and treatment for the coronavirus. “It is not working in Italy right now, and they have a single-payer system,” Biden reiterated.
Sanders rebutted, saying that with the United States’ health care spending per capita, the country should be prepared:
One might expect that we are preparing effectively for a pandemic, that we were ready with the ventilators, with the ICUs, with the test kits that we need…
In terms of Medicare for All, despite what the vice president is saying, what the experts tell us is that one of the reasons that we are unprepared, and have been unprepared, is we don’t have a system. We’ve got thousands of private insurance plans – that is not a system that is prepared to provide health care to all people.
Biden hit back, saying, “That has nothing to do when you’re in a national crisis. A national crisis says, we’re responding. It’s all free. You don’t have to pay for a thing. That has nothing to do with whether or not you have an insurance policy. This is a crisis.”
Bernie: "We don't have a system… we have thousands of private insurance plans…that is not a system prepared to provide healthcare for all people."
Biden: "That has nothing to do with a crisis. We are at war with a virus. This has nothing to do with copays or anything." pic.twitter.com/qtuwpi3uXN
— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) March 16, 2020
The coronavirus, which originated in China’s Hubei province, has infected more than 158,000 worldwide and left over 6,00o dead, according to NBC News, which cites its own reports, as well as “as well as the “World Health Organization, state government leaders, and health officials.”
There have been 3,510 confirmed cases in the United States, and 67 deaths.
Author: Frank Camp