Tuesday night, CNN aired a healthcare debate which featured Senator Bernie Sanders representing the pro-Obamacare side and Senator Ted Cruz who provided the anti-Obamacare viewpoint. The debate featured questions from an audience members, including one who had difficulty paying her premiums and another who had only been able to receive treatment for her cancer due to the Affordable Care Act.To the woman with cancer who was concerned she would no longer be able to get insurance as her cancer would be considered a pre-existing condition, Senator Cruz assured her that all of the Republican replacement plans would continue her coverage. Senator Sanders pointed out that Cruz was carefully choosing his words to avoid the fact that continuing coverage is much different from protecting her when she tries to get new coverage in the future.
When asked about why the “Affordable” Care Act is so unaffordable for many families, Senator Sanders took the opportunity to say what all of his supporters had been wanting to hear: we should have had a public option. Senator Sanders has long been a proponent of single-payer healthcare and Medicare-for-all, so it was not a stretch to hear him tout the public option as a resolution for the ever-rising prices of insurance premiums.
So while this wasn’t a surprising response from Sanders, it was surprising that the Senator, who is not a huge fan of the Affordable Care Act as implemented, was the one chosen to stand up for it. Anyone having seen a debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton during the primaries would have heard Sanders attacking the Affordable Care Act for how many Americans remain uninsured or underinsured as he continuously touted the benefits of a single-payer Medicare-for-all system.
And that didn’t end when he left the Presidential race – in the debate he continued to cite the need for a single-payer system. Cruz countered by saying that Canadians, who have a single payer system, often come to the United States for better (and more timely) care. Cruz also categorized Sanders’ plan as ‘rationing’ off healthcare, to which Sanders responded that healthcare in the US is technically being rationed already, as you have to have the right income to be able to afford it.
In the end, no one actually stood up for the Affordable Care Act. Cruz advocated scrapping most of it; Sanders suggested scrapping it entirely and moving to a single payer system. So while the true winner of the night was debatable, the clear loser was the Affordable Care Act.