By Chris Woodward
Former Vice President Joe Biden has released his proposed health care plan – and in the process channeled a historic Barack Obama promise that many Americans later discovered to be a lie.
"I believe we have to protect and build on Obamacare," Biden says in a campaign video. "That's why I proposed adding a public option to Obamacare as the best way to lower cost and cover everyone."
A public option is a government-backed plan that would be offered alongside plans from private insurers, the idea being that it would create competition and drive down prices.
"I understand the appeal of Medicare for All, but folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare," the former VP and presidential hopeful continues. "And I'm not for that."
Merrill Matthews, Ph.D. of the Institute for Policy Innovation says voters have seen this with other vice presidents when they ran for the Oval Office.
"The vice president is in a difficult position faced by a lot of former vice presidents who served under a previous president … and that is How do you distinguish yourself from your prior boss, the president, while at the same time saying there were things that were wrong and need to be improved?" Matthews explains.
"If [Biden was proposing] a Medicare for All, it would look like he thought Obamacare was a failure. So he's put in a kind of a stop-gap to try to help some of the problems that he perceives are facing Obamacare – and in the process [he] hopes to gain some moderate Democrat votes who feel like [going to] a government-run health care system is just too far."
Whatever the case, Matthews is no fan of Medicare for All – nor of a public option.
"A public option was always a way to be a step closer to a single-payer [health care] system," he explains, "and Biden includes that in what would be called a Medicare Buy-In; that is, people could buy into the Medicare program, as I understand it, for less than they would have to pay for normal insurance."
That, says Matthews, raises an important question: "Is this really a fair competition if you're going to various things to ensure that the Medicare buy-in costs less? Is that really fair to competition?"
Biden doesn't appear to be backing down. In fact, he doubled down at a campaign event in Iowa, saying: "I give people the option: If you like your health care plan, your employer-based plan, you can keep it. If … you have private insurance, you can keep it."
Biden pointed out that Medicare for All would do away with private insurance.
Still, President Barack Obama promised the same thing about health insurance, but many Americans saw their plans canceled because of regulations under the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare). Others canceled the plans they wanted because they did not qualify for Obamacare's taxpayer subsidies and could no longer afford the premiums.