Former Vice President Joe Biden and California Sen. Kamala Harris are clashing over their dueling health care plans during the opening moments of the Democratic presidential debate in Detroit.
The pair had a tense exchange during the opening debates last month in Miami — and wasted little time before going at it again Wednesday.
Harris says her proposal would extend health insurance to all Americans, while Biden’s would “leave out” almost 10 million.
Biden says her plan is too expensive and would cause many people to lose their current, employer-based health insurance. He says Harris isn’t being straight about that, adding, “You can’t beat President Trump with double-talk.”
Harris says Biden is “simply inaccurate.”
Joe Biden criticized Medicare-for-All backers broadly. He mocked Harris and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for downplaying the taxpayer costs of their proposals for single-payer government insurance.
Biden says he doesn’t “know what kind of math you do in New York” or “in California” as he points to estimates that single-payer insurance could cost about $30 trillion over 10 years.
Harris is responding by noting private insurers’ billions of dollars in profits.
Biden argued in the Democratic presidential debate for his “public option” proposal to expand the Affordable Care Act without ending job-based insurance.
Single-payer supporters note that their approach would replace Americans’ premium and out-of-pocket costs for private insurance. Harris also insists her pitch would not require middle-class tax increases.
Harris is one of the former vice president’s top rivals and sharpest critics.
Biden greeted Kamala Harris with a handshake and a smile Wednesday night while asking her to “Go easy on me, kid.”
The California senator called Biden by his first name as she smiled in return.
Their generational and racial differences — Biden is a 76-year-old white man; Harris is a 54-year-old black woman — were on display last month in the first debate, when Harris hammered Biden for his opposition to federal court-ordered busing in the 1970s as a way to desegregate public schools like Harris’s elementary school in California.
Biden has promised to defend his record more forcefully in this debate.