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Joe Biden unveils his alternative to 'Medicare for all'

Evan Halper and Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- Joe Biden unveiled a robust plan to expand Obamacare by adding a public program that all Americans could choose, as the former vice president argued Monday that medical insurance can be made universally accessible without scrapping the nation's current model of delivering healthcare.

The Biden plan would provide tens of billions of dollars in new healthcare spending in a bid to lower the out-of-pocket costs that families face for healthcare, make Medicare-style coverage available to any American who wants it and significantly expand tax credits to help people pay for insurance.

He would pay for that primarily by raising capital gains taxes on those earning more than $1 million, according to a summary Biden's campaign provided to reporters in advance.

The blueprint comes amid intensified tangling between the former vice president and progressive rivals who are pushing more transformational change in healthcare, through a "Medicare for all" system that would abolish private insurance.

As progressives in the race dismiss the current system as unfixable and beholden to corporate pharmaceutical and insurance interests, Biden warns that walking away from Obamacare could leave a large swath of the country vulnerable to losing coverage.

"He is remembering ... how hard it was to get the Affordable Care Act passed," said a senior campaign official, who would speak only on condition of anonymity before Biden presented the plan. "It took a century of presidents thinking about and pushing for healthcare reform before Barack Obama and Joe Biden got it done.

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"He is going to oppose every Republican who is seeking to tear down Obamacare, just as he's going to oppose Democrats seeking to tear down Obamacare," the aide said.

Over the weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders accused Biden of using the same tactics as President Trump and the insurance industry to mischaracterize his Medicare for all plan.

As the candidates trade barbs, Biden is unveiling a blueprint that would step up the generosity of Obamacare and expand coverage to the poor even in conservative states that rejected the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act.

The plan still fundamentally preserves the employer-based health insurance system that most working-age Americans rely on for coverage. It builds off the health insurance system created by the Affordable Care Act, with targeted adjustments that appear aimed at fixing some of the law's shortcomings.

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