Health care dominates second debate, as Harris, Biden spar over costs

Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden traded barbs over health care in the second Democratic debate on Wednesday night, setting off a brawl among the 10 Democrats on stage about the best coverage policy.

The debate in Detroit — which came on the heels of the rollout of Harris' Medicare for All plan earlier in the week — highlighted the fracture among Democrats between those who want to sweep health care under the arm of the government and those who want to keep it private.

"This is the single most important issue facing the public," Biden -- the frontrunner -- said. "To be very blunt...You can't beat President Trump with double talk on this plan."

Harris' plan, unveiled on Monday, would shift the country to a government-run system over 10 years, but private insurers would still be able to compete within it.

"I designed a plan where, yes, responsive to the need of American families, there will be a public plan and a private plan," she said.

Biden, however, criticized the lengthy timeframe for implementation, as well as the $3 trillion price tag. He contends that his plan would cost a fraction of that at $750 billion. ("The cost of doing nothing is far too expensive," she fired back).

But Harris stressed that her health care vision would not result in further tax hikes on Americans, instead taking aim at Biden's plan, which she said would leave almost 10 million Americans uninsured.


The debate extended to the remainder of the stage with a back-and-forth over who's paying for the different health plans. The only candidate in Wednesday night's debate in Detroit who supports shifting entirely to a single-payer system is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Biden went about de Blasio and Harris for the cost of their plans. Some presidential candidates who support Medicare for all -- most notably Sen. Bernie Sanders -- have admitted it could result in higher taxes on the middle-class, but defended it by saying that, ultimately, Americans will save money thanks to cheaper health care costs. Similarly, de Blasio argued that a copy, deductible and premium is "worse than any tax."

"I don't know what math you do in New York, what math you do in California," Biden said. "There will be a deductible, and it will be out of your paycheck."