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Biden Aggressively Defends Obamacare   07/15 06:13

   Joe Biden is taking an aggressive approach to defending the Affordable Care 
Act, challenging not just President Donald Trump but also some of his rivals 
for the Democratic presidential nomination who want to replace the current 
insurance system with a fully government-run model.

   (AP) -- Joe Biden is taking an aggressive approach to defending the 
Affordable Care Act, challenging not just President Donald Trump but also some 
of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination who want to replace 
the current insurance system with a fully government-run model.

   The former vice president will spend much of the coming week talking about 
his approach to health care, including his unveiling Monday of a plan that 
would add a "public option" to the 2010 health care overhaul, with expanded 
coverage paid for by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Biden's almost 
singular focus on former President Barack Obama's health care law, often called 
"Obamacare," has been on display recently in early voting states.

   In Iowa, Biden declared himself "against any Republican (and) any Democrat 
who wants to scrap" the Affordable Care Act. Later in New Hampshire, he said 
"we should not be scrapping Obamacare, we should be building on it."

   Biden hopes his positioning as Obamacare's chief defender helps him on 
several fronts. It's a reminder of his close work alongside Obama, who remains 
popular among Democratic voters. And it could reinforce Biden's pitch as a 
sensible centrist promising to rise above the strident cacophony of Trump and 
Democrats like Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, all 
single-payer advocates.

   Biden's proposal, outlined by advisers ahead of its release, is anchored by 
a "Medicare-like" plan that any American, including the 150 million-plus 
Americans now covered by job-based insurance, could buy on ACA exchanges.

   The proposal would make existing subsidies more generous and make more 
middle-income households eligible for them, lowering their out-of-pocket costs. 
It also would extend premium-free coverage to lower-income Americans who have 
been denied eligibility to Medicaid in Republican-run states that refused to 
participate in the Affordable Care Act.

   The campaign puts the taxpayer cost at $750 billion over 10 years, with the 
campaign saying that would be covered by returning the top marginal income tax 
to 39.6 percent, the rate before the 2017 GOP tax cuts . Some multimillionaires 
also would lose certain capital gains tax advantages.

   Biden's aides framed his plan as more fiscally responsible and politically 
realistic than a single-payer overhaul. The idea behind a public option is to 
extend coverage to those who can't afford decent private coverage, while 
forcing corporate insurers to compete alongside the government, theoretically 
pressuring those private firms to lower their premiums and out-of-pocket costs 
for their policy holders.

   Perhaps as important to Biden's campaign prospects, the Obamacare emphasis 
is an opportunity for Biden to go on offense ahead of the next presidential 
debates at the end of July. Biden has spent the past several weeks on defense, 
reversing his position on taxpayer funding for abortions and highlighting his 
past work with segregationist senators . Harris slammed Biden during the first 
debates , blasting the segregationist comment and criticizing his opposition to 
federal busing orders to desegregate public schools during the same era.

   Those episodes called Biden's front-runner status into question, and in New 
Hampshire over the weekend it was clear Biden wanted to turn the tables on his 
rivals backing "Medicare for All."

   "I think one of the most significant things we've done in our administration 
is pass the Affordable Care Act," Biden said. "I don't know why we'd get rid of 
what in fact was working and move to something totally new. And so, there are 

   He argued that some of his opponents, with the exception of Sanders, aren't 
fairly representing the consequences of their proposals.

   "Bernie's been very honest about it," Biden said. "He said you're going to 
have to raise taxes on the middle class. He said it's going to end all private 
insurance. I mean, he's been straightforward about it. And he's making his 

   Asked specifically whether Harris has been honest about how her plan would 
affect private insurance, Biden said, "I'll let you guys make that judgment."

   During last month's debates, Harris, Warren and Sanders raised their hands 
when candidates were asked as a group whether they supported eliminating 
private insurance. Harris, a Senate co-sponsor of Sanders' single-payer bill, 
reversed her answer a day later --- the second time since her campaign launch 
that she'd walked back her seeming endorsement of eliminating private insurance.

   She explained that she interpreted the moderator's question as asking 
whether she'd be willing to give up her existing coverage as part of a 
single-payer model. She said she wants private policies to remain 
"supplemental" options for consumers.

   Sanders, meanwhile, hit back at Biden, clarifying that his plan would be a 
net financial benefit for most households: Their federal taxes would go up, but 
their private insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays would be eliminated.

   "At a time when Donald Trump and the health insurance industry are lying 
every day about 'Medicare for All,' I would hope that my fellow Democrats would 
not resort to misinformation about my legislation," Sanders said in a statement 
responding to Biden's comments.

   Biden isn't the only public-option advocate running for president.

   Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper warns that Republicans will brand 
single-payer as "socialism." Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet echoes Biden's 
argument with a call to "finish the work we started with Obamacare" and warned 
Sunday in Iowa that Sanders' nomination would doom the party in 2020.

   Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar touts a public option as the next logical move 
even for single-payer advocates.

   "I think it is a beginning and the way you start and the way you move to 
universal health care," she said in the first debate.

   If anything, the dynamics illustrate Democrats' overall leftward shift on 
health care.

   A decade ago, as Obama pushed for the ACA, the public option was effectively 
the left-flank for Democrats, a reality made obvious when Obama angered House 
liberals by jettisoning the provision to mollify some moderate Senate Democrats 
needed to pass the legislation. Now, after Sanders' insurgent 2016 presidential 
bid and his promise of "health care as a human right," the left has embraced 
single-payer, with moderates moving to the public option.

   Yet with the exception of Biden, the moderates are languishing far back in 
polls, leaving the former vice president to capitalize on the dividing lines 
and promising that he will do what Obama couldn't.

   "And," he declared, "it can be done quickly."


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