Healthcare at the Democratic debate: Sanders defends financing 'Medicare-for-All,' Clinton calls it a 'train-wreck'

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton challenged each other's healthcare proposals at the Democratic debate Thursday evening in New York.

The debate's tone was one of the most combative yet on the Democratic side, perhaps because both candidates feel New York is home turf — Sen. Sanders is a Brooklyn native and Ms. Clinton served two terms as senator of New York. The stakes are high for both campaigns heading into the New York primary next Tuesday.

Here are the healthcare highlights.

1. Sen. Sanders defended the price tag of his single-payer healthcare proposal, dubbed "Medicare-for-All," when CNN moderator Wolf Blitzer asked if it was fiscally responsible. Mr. Blitzer cited an analysis from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget that found Sen. Sanders' initiatives would cost up to $28 trillion and even after tax increases would add up to $15 trillion to the national debt. Sen. Sanders refuted the study, as he has against other claims the math doesn't work out for his healthcare plans.

"There are many economists who come up with very, very different numbers," Sen. Sanders said in response. He said his plans would save the middle-class thousands on healthcare costs.

2. Ms. Clinton took a jab at Sen. Sanders' proposal, calling it a "train-wreck." While she said she agreed we needed to get to 100 percent universal healthcare coverage, she wants to do it by expanding and continuing the work of the Affordable Care Act.

"But I do think when you make proposals and you're running for president, you should be held accountable for whether or not the numbers add up and whether or not the plans are actually going to work," she said. Based on analyses from progressive economists and health economists, Sen. Sanders' plan would put a burden on both the budget and individuals, she said, adding, "In fact, The Washington Post called it a train-wreck for the poor. A working woman on Medicaid who already has health insurance would be expected to pay about $2,300."

3. Sen. Sanders countered that the U.S. should be able to accomplish what other major countries have in securing universal healthcare. "Secretary Clinton will have to explain to the people of our country how it could be that every other major country on Earth manages to guarantee healthcare to all of their people, spending significantly less per capita than we can," he said, comparing the U.S. system to Canada's.

Despite the aggressive tone of the debate, it was clear the candidates have similar goals of universal coverage and the primary difference is how they plan to get there.

See the full debate transcript here.


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