Bernie Sanders vs. Tim Ryan on Medicare For All Covering Unions: "I Do Know, I Wrote The Damn Bill!"

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Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tim Ryan argue over Medicare for All and union coverage at the CNN Democratic presidential debate in Detroit on Tuesday.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thank you Mayor Buttigieg, Senator Sanders your response?



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT): Let's be clear what this debate is about. Nobody can defend the dysfunctionality of the current system. What we are taking on is the fact that over the last 20 years the drug companies and the insurance companies have spent $4.5 billion of your health insurance money on lobbying and campaign contributions.

That is why when I went to Canada the other day, people paid one-tenth the price in Canada for insulin that they're paying in the United States --

TAPPER: Thank you Senator. I want to bring in Congressman Tim Ryan, Congressman Ryan your response?

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): So here we are in Detroit, home of the United Auto workers. We have all our union friends here tonight. This plan that's being offered by Senator Warren and Senator Sanders will tell those Union members who gave away wages in order to get good healthcare that they're going to lose their healthcare because Washington's going to come in and tell them they got a better plan.

This is the left and right thing -- new and better is this, move Medicare down to 50. Allow people to buy-in, Kaiser Permanente said that if they -- those 60 million people do that, they will see --

TAPPER: Thank you Congressman.

RYAN: A 40 percent reduction --

TAPPER: Thank you Congressman.

RYAN: In their healthcare cost, let businesses buy-in, Jake --

TAPPER: Thank you Congressman. So Senator, let's talk about that. If Medicare for all is enacted, there are more than 600,000 union members here in Michigan who would be forced to give up their private healthcare plans.

Now, I understand that it would provide universal coverage -- but, can you guarantee those union members that the benefits under Medicare for all will be as good as the benefits that they're representatives -- their union reps fought hard to negotiate?

SANDERS: Well two things, they will be better because Medicare for all is comprehensive -- it covers all healthcare needs. For senior citizens it will finally include dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses.

RYAN: But you don't know that -- you don't know that, Bernie.

SANDERS: Second of all --

TAPPER: I'll come to you in a second, Congressman.

SANDERS: I do know it, I wrote the damn bill. And second of all, second of all -- many of our union brothers and sisters, nobody more pro-union than me up here, are now paying high deductibles and copayments when we do Medicare for all, instead of having the company putting money in to healthcare, they can get decent wage increases, which they're not getting today.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Congressman Ryan to respond to what Senator Sanders just said.

RYAN: I mean, Senator Sanders does not know all of the union contracts in the United States. I'm trying to explain that these union members are losing their jobs, their wages have been stagnant, the world is crumbling around them -- the only thing they have is possibly really good healthcare.

And the Democratic message is going to be, we're going to go in and the only thing you have left we're going to take it and we're going to do better. I do not think that's a recipe for success for us, it's bad policy and it's certainly bad politics.

TAPPER: Congressman Delaney.

DELANEY: So the bill that Senator Sanders drafted, by definition will lower quality in healthcare, because it says specifically that the rates will be the same as current Medicare rates. And the data is clear, Medicare does not cover the cost of healthcare, it covers 80 percent of the costs of healthcare in this country.

And private insurance covers 120 percent, so if you start underpaying all the healthcare providers, you're going to create a two tier market where wealthy people buy their healthcare with cash, and the people who are forced -- like my dad, the union electrician --

TAPPER: Thank you Congressman.

DELANEY: Will have that healthcare plan taken away from him --

TAPPER: Thank you Congressman --

DELANEY: They will be forced into an underfunded system.

TAPPER: I want to give Senator Sanders -- I want to give Senator Sanders a chance to respond.

SANDERS: On the Medicare for all, the hospitals will save substantial sums of money because they're not going to be spending a fortune doing billing and the other bureaucratic things that they have to do today.

Second of all --

DELANEY: I've done the math, it doesn't add up.

SANDERS: Maybe you did that and made money off of healthcare, but our job is to run a nonprofit healthcare system. Furthermore -- furthermore, when we say $500 billion a year by ending all of the incredible complexities that are driving every American crazy trying to deal with the health insurance companies --

TAPPER: Thank you Senator.

SANDERS: Hospitals will be better off than they are today.

TAPPER: Congressman Delaney, I want to let you have a chance to respond.

DELANEY: Listen, his math is wrong. That's all I'm saying -- that his math is wrong, it's been well-documented that if all the bills were paid at Medicare rate, which is specifically -- I think it's in section 1,200 of their bill, then many hospitals in this country would close.

I've been going around rural America, and I ask rural hospital administrators one question, "If all your bills were paid at the Medicare rate last year, what would happen?"

And they all look at me and say, "We would close."

But the question is, why do we have to be so extreme? Why can't we just give everyone health care as a right, and allow them to have choice?

BASH: Thank you, Congressman.

DELANEY: I'm starting to think this is not about health care...

BASH: Thank you, Congressman...

DELANEY: This is an anti-private-sector...

BASH: Thank you Congressman. We're going to move on.

DELANEY: ... strategy.

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