On February 7th, 2017, Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I- VT) debated on CNN about the future of the Affordable Care Act, better known as ‘ObamaCare’. Each Senator almost became a Presidential nominee for the two major political parties in the United States. Cruz being a strong, Constitutionally-oriented Republican and Sanders, although his official Senate press labels him as an independent, ran for the Democratic nomination. After the 2016 Presidential debates, Sanders and Cruz brought a refreshing taste back to the American debate scene: less hostility and more communication as well as exchange.
Although throughout the debate, both Sanders and Cruz repeatedly ignored the debate moderators when they were told the time had expired, the discussion that took place in the time after was constructive and actually provided insight to the Senators’ thoughts. No major personal attacks, such as significant attacks to character, took place, but only attack of policy. Each Senator was willing to hear the other before responding.
Senator Sanders opened first. He began with what would happen if the ACA was repealed. “If you are one of 20 million Americans who finally has received health insurance, forget about it, you’re gone,” said Sanders. Sanders explained also the cost of prescription drugs would rise $2000. Currently the United States is the only first world country that does not guarantee health care as a right, but Sanders believes the United States should. “We have got to go further and join every other major country on Earth and say that if you are an American, you are guaranteed health care as a right, not a privilege,” concluded Sanders.
Senator Ted Cruz opened with a different approach. Cruz is in opposition to government controlled health care and wants Americans to choose their plan, their doctor, and their provider. Recalling the promises made by fmr. President Obama, such as “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”, he noted how that was false and that premiums have risen. Senator Cruz said that the last election cycle was a statement of the American people about their distaste towards the ACA. “I think health care works better when you’re in charge of your family’s health care decisions, when you can sit down with your doctor and decide the care that’s best for your family without government setting rules,” said the Senator. He concluded with saying that the ACA reduced American freedom and choice and the American people said they do not want that anymore because of how they voted in the last election.
As the debate continued, the Senators came very clear with how they stand toward the repeal of the ACA. Senator Sanders argued how disastrous the repeal could be due to how Americans with preexisting conditions could become uninsured. He said that insurance companies will refuse people because they will lose their profit, meaning Sanders is heavily against private insurance companies. Sanders then took Cruz’s choice rhetoric and manipulated it. He phrased it as Americans have a choice: become sick, go see a doctor, and be refused insurance, if the ACA is repealed OR become sick, see a doctor, and receive coverage because the ACA ensures coverage. In my opinion, Senator Sanders was heavily using fear mongering to explain his point.
Senator Cruz began with a John Adams quote, “Facts are stubborn things.” He then brought up how the average American family’s premiums have gone up $5,462. Then said how insurance companies’ profits have doubled since the instillment of the ACA. “For families that are struggling, you’re getting less coverage, you’re paying more for it, and your deductibles are higher,” said Cruz. He does not believe that a law should be placed that hurts American families, but help insurance companies, who already made billions.
Senator Sanders brought up how the insurance companies can deny women who are pregnant coverage because pregnancy is considered a preexisting condition. Both Senators agreed that this was not right. Sanders, no matter what happens to the ACA, wants to ensure that insurance companies cannot deny for preexisting conditions. Cruz agreed and proposed a solution, that did not include a government mandate. Cruz said that health insurance should be able to carry with you, even after you lose a your job, just as how you do not lose your house, car, or life insurance. He also said that he wants the American people to be able to choose which coverage they need on their plan, unlike what the ACA mandates. An 85 year old woman may not need maternity care and should not have to pay for it, but a 26 year old woman is more likely to need it and can choose if she would like it. Both agree to the fact that not only should preexisting conditions need to be accepted, but that more doctors are needed.
Senator Cruz made an excellent point later in the debate. Young people, as noted by Cruz, heavily supported Bernie in the last election cycle, but Cruz said that he agrees with Sanders. With a chuckle, Ted said how he got many puzzled looks. In response he said, “Bernie talks about how Washington is corrupt,[…] how both parties are in bed with big business and big money and it is a corrupt system benefiting special interests. I agree absolutely and entirely.” The Senator then added how he feels he differs with Sanders in solution; then saying, “If the problem is government is corrupt, why on earth would you want more power in Washington? I want to take power out of Washington and empower the people.” This means that Senator Cruz believes that a government forcing an American to buy something gives more power to Washington, which each from different parties agree on. Cruz wants to give more choice to the American people in what they want to buy, if they want to buy anything at all, to take the power out of Washington DC and back into the power of the American people.
A member of the audience brought up how the price of prescription drugs is astronomical and some drugs are banned all together by the FDA, even though they are used in other Western Countries. Both senators agreed that the FDA should have less bans and regulations, and both Senators are concerned with how the pharmaceutical companies are making a large profit, but they have different solutions.
“The liberal-leaning Urban Institute scored Bernie’s health plan, concluded it would cost $2.5 trillion in the first year and $32 trillion over ten years,” said Cruz. Senator Cruz explained how each year federal income taxes amount to $1.5 trillion; to get the additional, $2.5 trillion dollars, everyone would have to triple their income tax each year. “Now, Bernie no doubt is going to come back and say, no, no, no, none of you are going to pay. Just the rich,” explained Cruz. Cruz ultimately debunked Senator Sanders’ plan to only tax the rich because he said that if we took 100% of the income for people who make over $1 million, it would only fund Senator Sanders’ plan for only 5 months. “Here’s another idea. How about if the government confiscated the assets of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and ExxonMobil, if it came in, illegally seized those companies and sold them, that would pay for one year of Bernie’s plan,” said Cruz. Sanders countered by saying how Cruz’s plans for tax cuts give breaks to the top 1%.
This debate, in comparison to 2016, was absolutely incredible. I enjoyed how the Senators found common ground on issues because, for what has been too long, the partisan divide has become too prevalent. The agreements between Senator Sanders and Cruz demonstrated that each party does have common interest, but want a different solution. After a hostile debate season, Cruz and Sanders did an excellent job of attacking policy, not character. Although we heard the opinions of each Senator, it did not feel like one was explicitly trying to hurt the other. Rather than containing scandalous retorts and offensive rhetoric, the debate was informative to Americans, and myself, looking to gain more insight into the issue of healthcare in the United States.
To form your own understanding of the debate, read the full transcript here.