By Laurie Kotka
Tuesday, Bernie Sanders (Vermont-I) and Ted Cruz (Texas-R) examined the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in a CNN-hosted debate. Moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, the policy discussion included an evaluation of the to-date success of the ACA, arguments for and against repeal, as well audience questions framed in real-world experience with the ACA.
The discussion highlighted the continuing political divide between the right and the left both in congress and throughout the nation while hinting at the fact that even within party lines, there is no collectively shared vision for the final answer.
Despite Trump’s rapid-fire action on many of his Day-One campaign promises, his pledge to immediately seek Repeal and Replace congressional action on the ACA has itself been replaced with metered review of the facts, congressional insight, and ultimate impact for the millions of Americans currently covered by the plan. While the Sanders-Cruz debate framed the discussion in absolutes, the tentative approach exhibited by congress suggests the matter is far from clear-cut.
While Cruz and Sanders both presented individual-case illustrations to suggest their position was the only tenable one, they wandered into common ground shared by the audience – Americans need affordable health care that in turn provides cost-effective wellness solutions and treatment programs.
Sanders defended his idea for a federally-managed, universal Medicare program funded by tax hikes on the wealthy. Arguing such a program is outside the scope of the founders’ intent for government, Cruz remained resolute that the only answer is a full repeal of the ACA.
For both senators, the How and What of healthcare policy ultimately came down to a debate on individual rights.
Cruz defined an individual’s right to health care stating, “It’s access to health care.” He then turned to Sanders and asked, “If you think health care is a right, why on earth did you help write Obamacare that caused 6 million people to have their health insurance canceled?”
Sanders replied that Americans might have “access” to purchase multimillion-dollar properties, but that doesn’t mean they can afford to buy them.
“Access doesn’t mean a damn thing,” concluded Sanders.