Chris Wallace looked on Tuesday, in Cleveland, as Joe Biden debated Donald Trump. (Credit: Olivier Douliery) Chris Wallace looked on Tuesday, in Cleveland, as Joe Biden debated Donald Trump. (Credit: Olivier Douliery)

Donald Trump spent much of the first presidential debate interrupting Joe Biden. Biden responded by calling Trump a clown and a liar.

The presidential candidates also spent some time talking about health care and health coverage — and they ended up agreeing on the proposition that people should be able to buy private health insurance.

The president and former vice president clashed Tuesday in Cleveland, in a battle moderated by Chris Wallace, a Fox News anchor.

(Related: Handicapping the Presidential Election: Amy Walter)

Trump said that Biden has endorsed Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal by embracing Sanders and Sanders’ voters, and that Biden will lose support from Sanders’ supporters if he fails to back Medicare for All.

Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal would create a pure, government-run, “single payer” health care finance system. If the proposal were passed and implemented as written, it would outlaw major medical insurance.

Biden said that, during Democratic primary debates, other candidates accused him of wanting to let Americans continue to have private insurance, and that this observation was correct.

“They can, they do and they will, under my proposal,” Biden said.

Biden said that he has proposed creating a government-run public option program, but that his proposal would make the public option program available only to the kinds of low-income people who, in many states, would be eligible for Medicaid.

“The vast majority of the American people would still not be in that option,” Biden said.

Trump’s Efforts

Trump said that his administration has already taken a major step toward replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), by getting rid of the ACA individual coverage mandate. The mandate provision requires many people to have what the government classifies as solid major medical coverage or else pay a penalty. Congress included a provision zeroing out the penalty in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

“I got rid of the individual mandate,” Trump said. “That was the worst part of Obamacare…. We made it better. We took away the individual mandate. They shouldn’t even call it Obamacare.”

Trump said he’s had his people run Obamacare as well as they can, to try to help people.

“The problem is, no matter how well you run Obamacare, it’s a disaster,” Trump said. “It’s too expensive. The premiums are too high.”

Trump said that, in addition to eliminating the individual mandate, his administration has taken steps toward cutting the prices of prescription drugs,  and that it’s made a great deal for insulin. “I’m getting it so cheap it’s like water,” he said.

Biden and the Affordable Care Act

Biden said Trump continues to move toward getting rid of the Affordable Care Act, and taking the health coverage options created by ACA away from 20 million people.

He said one point of Trump’s effort to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court is to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Overturning the ACA would eliminate the ACA provisions that help people with health problems get coverage, Biden said.

“Insurance companies are going to love this,” Biden said.

Biden said that 7 million Americans have already suffered from COVID-19, and that this means that at least 7 million more Americans now have what insurers will see as a pre-existing condition.

Trump said that Americans will be getting better health care at better prices.

(Related: New Trump Executive Order Treats Health Coverage System Gently

Biden said, “He doesn’t know how do that.”

Trump “has no plan for health care,” Biden said. “He sends out wishful thinking. He has executive orders that have no power. He hasn’t lowered drug costs for anybody. He has been promising the plan since he got elected. He has none… He does not have a plan…. That fact is, this man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

The Pandemic

Biden said that he unveiled COVID-19 response plans in March and July, and that Trump should release a serious response plan, or accept a proposal developed by House Democratic leaders.

“You should get out of your bunker and sand trap and your golf course, and go to the Oval Office and bring together the Democrats and the Republicans, and fund what needs to be done now, to save lives,” Biden said.

Biden said Trump should also do more to support mask wearing, citing remarks made by Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“His own CDC director says we could lose as many as another 200,000 people between now and the end of the year,” Biden said. “He said, if we just wear a mask, we can save half of those people. Just by wearing masks.”

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