BERN NOTICE: 5 Examples of Biden Literally Reciting Health Care Industry Talking Points

Biden has deep ties to the health care industry -- and he is now attacking Bernie with talking points written by the industry

Bern Notice is a production of the Bernie 2020 campaign. Please forward this on to your friends and tell them to subscribe. The views expressed here are solely of the bylined author.

If Joe Biden’s frantic attacks on Medicare for All seem familiar, that’s because a new analysis shows Biden is literally parroting the talking points being promoted by the insurance/pharma front group that is now spending millions to attack Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.

During a Rolling Stone podcast yesterday, Bernie noted that Biden “is echoing what the health industry wants him to is really disturbing that we have Democratic candidates who are echoing the talking points of the health care industry.”

That’s 100% correct, according to a comparison of Biden’s statements and the website of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future. That group — which is airing anti-Medicare-for-All attack ads — is comprised of insurers, pharmaceutical companies and other health care industry players, and it has hired former Capitol Hill staffers to lobby lawmakers in Washington.

Biden’s full embrace of industry talking points follows a recent report in Vox noting that “the health care industry is betting on Joe Biden in its war against Medicare-for-all.” That’s not surprising, considering Biden’s deep ties to the industry.

The American Prospect reports that one top Biden aide “referred to as Biden’s campaign chairman in a published report last month, was a longtime lobbyist for health care and other corporate clients.” Biden has also refused to join Bernie in pledging to reject campaign cash from health industry executives -- instead, he launched his campaign with a fundraiser with a top health insurance CEO and he has raked in big money from the industry

Here are five specific examples of the industry’s dishonest talking points -- and Biden parroting them almost word-for-word.

EXAMPLE 1: Biden reciting industry talking points about taxes

PFAHCF WEBSITE: “Medicare for All means ‘Big Middle Class Tax Increases’…The high costs of Medicare for all-style proposals would impact working families’ budgets through a higher tax bill.”

BIDEN: “Sanders’ Medicare for all plan would require raising taxes on the middle class.”

FACT: In 2017, the United States spent roughly $3.5 trillion on health care, averaging approximately $11,000 per person. This year, “the total costs for a typical family of four insured by the most common health plan offered by employers will top $28,000,” according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Under Medicare for All, those costs are eliminated for households — and experts note that will result in overall expenditures decreasing for middle class households:

  • University of Massachusetts economist Robert Pollin recently published a Wall Street Journal oped showing how the “typical middle class family would spend 14% less on healthcare under our Medicare for All plan.”

  • A Citizens for Tax Justice study found that Bernie’s Medicare for All plan would result in a $3,240 net income boost for middle class families.

  • A RAND study found that moving to a Medicare-for-all system in New York would save a family with an income of $185,000 or less about $3,000 a year, on average.

  • Even the projections from the conservative Mercatus Center suggest that the average American could save about $6,000 under Medicare for all over a 10-year period. 

EXAMPLE 2: Biden recites industry talking points about costs

PFAHCF WEBSITE: “Sanders’s Medicare For All Plan Would Costs Americans Trillions”

BIDEN: "I think we should be in a position of taking a look at what costs are. My plan for health care costs a lot of money. It costs $740 billion. It doesn't cost $30 trillion, $3.4 trillion a year, it turns out, is twice what the entire federal budget is."

FACT: Medicare for All will cost trillions -- but far less than what America currently spends on its current corporate-run health care system. That’s why the Week’s Ryan Cooper said this talking point is an outright “falsehood.” He writes: “If one counts mandatory insurance premiums as akin to taxes, then it turns out that U.S. workers are the second-most heavily taxed out of all the countries in the OECD. That's partly why even a study from the libertarian Mercatus Center found that Medicare-for-all would reduce total health-care spending over the next 10 years by $2 trillion.” Additionally, Pollin’s University of Massachusetts-Amherst study found that Bernie’s Medicare for All plan would save America more than $5 trillion over the next decade.

EXAMPLE 3: Biden recites industry talking points about unions

PFAHCF WEBSITE: “Union Opposition To Medicare For All” 

BIDEN: “My friend from Vermont thinks that the employer's going to give you back if you negotiated as a union all these years, got a cut in wages because you got insurance. They're going to give back that money to the employee?”

FACT: Many major unions are strongly supportive of Medicare for All. In fact, top union leaders have recently rebuked politicians like Biden for pretending the program would be bad for union members. And yes -- when Bernie is president, employers are going to “give back that money to the employee” because Bernie’s Workplace Democracy Plan requires that.

Indeed, Bernie’s plan isn’t relying on corporations voluntarily giving workers raises — instead, the plan explicitly requires “that resulting healthcare savings from union-negotiated plans result in wage increases and additional benefits for workers during the transition to Medicare for All...Under this plan, all company savings that result from reduced health care contributions from Medicare for All will accrue equitably to workers in the form of increased wages or other benefits.”

EXAMPLE 4: Biden recites industry talking points about “starting over”

PFAHCF WEBSITE: “Our leaders should be building upon (the ACA)…not scrapping the foundations of American health care (and) starting over from scratch.”

BIDEN: “I understand the appeal of Medicare-for-all, but folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare, and I’m not for that…Starting over makes no sense to me at all.”

FACT: Medicare is a 64-year-old program, that is among the most popular programs in American history. Expanding Medicare to cover all people is not “starting over” -- and polls show expanding Medicare is a more popular idea than tweaking the current corporate-run system. 

Indeed, strong majority of voters support Medicare for All, according to recent polls from HarrisX, RealClear Opinion Research, Morning Consult, YouGov and ABC News/Washington Post. Polls from RealClear Opinion Research, Morning Consult, YouGov, Business Insider and Tulchin Research show that majorities of all voters specifically want Medicare for All to replace private insurance. And the new Politico/Morning Consult poll shows 65% of Democratic voters would be more likely to support a candidate who backs Medicare for All over efforts to tweak the current corporate-run health system.

Meanwhile: “A survey released this week by Public Private Strategies (PPS) found that, faced with soaring costs under the for-profit status quo, 58 percent of U.S. small business owners support replacing America's dysfunctional healthcare system with Medicare for All.”

EXAMPLE 5: Biden recites industry talking points about rural hospitals

PFAHCF WEBSITE: “If a substantial percentage of the commercial population were to shift to reimburse at Medicare rates, a large proportion of high-risk hospitals would see a grave threat to their viability.”

BIDEN: “(Medicare for All) threatens rural hospitals because Medicare reimbursement rates are just too low for these hospitals to keep the doors open.”

FACT: This lie has been thoroughly debunked. The fact is, hospitals are closing right now. More than 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, 75 of them under Vice President Biden’s watch. We will provide funding to rebuild and expand rural health care infrastructure, including hospitals, maternity wards, mental health clinics, dental clinics, dialysis centers, home care services, ambulance services, and emergency departments in rural areas. Under Medicare for All, the government sets the reimbursement rates for hospitals and physicians. In a Bernie Sanders administration, hospitals that provide necessary care to their communities will stay open, period.

Bern after reading,