Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders met alone on Sunday on the debate stage for the first time, amid serious concerns in the United States over the disease COVID-19.
It comes after several difficult weeks for the Sanders campaign, where Biden took and then expanded his lead in delegates for the Democratic nomination for president. Despite the setbacks, Sanders vowed to stay in the race and forge ahead with the debate. He made it known that he intended to push Biden on his views of Sanders’ progressive vision.
The debate was held without a live audience, which was at the request of both campaigns, according to the Democratic National Committee, amid growing anxieties about the spread of the coronavirus.
Health care front and center
Much of the debate centered around arguments on who was better to lead the nation during a crisis, and especially the two candidates’ health care proposals.
Sanders advocates for a government-run healthcare system known as “Medicare for All,” where he characterizes health care as a human right, while Biden endorses expanding access and affordability of care, partly through expansion of government-funded health plans, among other proposals, without dismantling the private health insurance system.
During the debate, Sanders continued to advocate that the US needed to get its health care under control through a government plan.
“One of the reasons that we are unprepared, and have been unprepared, is we don’t have a system,” Sanders said. “We’ve got thousands of private insurance plans. That is not a system that is prepared to provide healthcare to all people in a good year, without the epidemic.”
Biden, meanwhile, characterized Sanders’ plan as potentially dangerous, which would leave millions of Americans uncertain about the future of their healthcare, arguing that government-run healthcare isn’t always an unmitigated success.
“With all due respect to ‘Medicare for All,’ you have a single-payer system in Italy,” Biden said. “It doesn’t work there.”
According to reports, Italy’s single-payer healthcare system has been overloaded since the onslaught of the coronavirus, leaving many doctors and nurses overwhelmed.
The virus and the US’ response got significant attention at the beginning of the debate. Both candidates called for ramped-up testing and economic relief for Americans.
Sanders criticized US President Donald Trump for “blabbering with unfactual information that is confusing the American public.” Biden said that “(COVID-19) is bigger than any one of us. This calls for a national rallying for one another.”
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