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Democratic Debaters Stick to Their Positions on Health Care

Presidential hopefuls don't support partial solutions to access and affordability

Democratic presidential candidates from left, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and businessman Tom Steyer s

Chris Carlson/AP

En español | Democratic hopefuls at Thursday's sixth presidential debate, held in Los Angeles, promised to fight for their solutions to ensure that all Americans have health care, regardless of how difficult it might be to get Congress to pass their plans.

Asked whether he would be willing to begin his quest for universal health care with smaller measures, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said no. “I think when we go out to the American people and tell them right now we have got to take the greed and corruption out of the pharmaceutical industry, for example … when the American people understand that Medicare for All expands Medicare to cover home health care, dental care, eyeglasses and hearing aids and does it at a cost far, far lower than what some of my opponents are talking about, you know what? We're going to have the American people behind us. We will have Congress behind us."

Sanders is the original author of a Medicare for All Act, legislation that would eliminate commercial health insurance and provide government-operated health coverage to all Americans. Among the seven candidates on the stage at Loyola Marymount University, Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren support a single-payer Medicare for All approach. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have said in previous debates that they would maintain private plans initially but believe that the country would inexorably move toward Medicare for All, also called a single-payer system.

"I want to do the most good I can for the most people as quickly as possible,” Warren said. “On day one I'm going to attack the prices on commonly used drugs, like EpiPens and insulin. That's going to save families hundreds of millions of dollars.” She also said that within the first 100 days of her administration, she would introduce her plan to cover all Americans without raising taxes on middle-class families.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar maintained their support for a public option that they said would build on the Affordable Care Act and let Americans who prefer their private-based health insurance keep it.

"Here you have 160 million people who negotiated their health care plans with their employer,” Biden said. “You may or may not like it. If you don't like it, you can move into the public option that I propose in my plan. But if you like it, you shouldn't have Washington dictating to you that you cannot keep the plan you have.” On his website, billionaire businessman and environmental activist Tom Steyer also supports adding a public option to compete with the private insurance market.

"I think you can be progressive and practical at the same time,” said Klobuchar. “That is why I favor a public option, which is a nonprofit option, to bring the cost down. And, yes, it does bring the costs down immediately for 13 million people, and then we'll expand coverage to 12 million [more] people. If you want to cross a river over some troubled waters, you build a bridge; you don't blow one up. And I think that we should build on the Affordable Care Act."

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