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June 27, 2019, 9:57 a.m. EDT

Kill off the health insurers? Medicare-for-All is a point of contention in first Democratic debate

Warren, de Blasio see no role for private health insurers

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By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch

Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks during Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Miami.

Health insurance was a source of contention in the first Democratic debate Wednesday night, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren leaving no space between her and her most formidable liberal rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, by not seeing a role for private insurers.

At the first debate of Democratic presidential candidates in Miami, Warren said she fully supported Sanders’ Medicare-for-All legislation, saying one of the big reasons people go broke is because of medical bills, even for those who have health insurance.

Read: Democrats spar over economy, immigration, health care at Miami debate: Live blog recap

“I understand that there are a lot of politicians who say, ‘oh, it’s just not possible, we just can’t do it,’” Warren said. “What they’re really telling you is they just won’t fight for it. Health care is a basic human right, and I will fight for basic human rights.”

Like Warren, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also raised his hand when asked by NBC’s Lester Holt whether they would abolish private health insurance, and later attacked former Rep. Beto O’Rourke for allowing a role for private insurers.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota responded why she sees a role for private insurers. “I think it’s a bold approach,” Klobuchar said. “It’s something that Barack Obama wanted to do when we were working on the Affordable Care Act, and that is a public option. I am simply concerned about kicking half of America off their health insurance in four years, which is what this bill says.”

Klobuchar said she wanted to reduce costs by taking on pharmaceutical companies.

“I think we should be the party that keeps what’s working and fixes what’s broken,” added former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, a proponent of private insurers having a continued role. “Doesn’t that make sense?”

About half of Americans get their health insurance through an employer, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Health-insurance stocks have had a rough year, in part on concerns over Medicare-for-All. UnitedHealth /zigman2/quotes/210453738/composite UNH +0.51%   has dropped 2% and Humana /zigman2/quotes/203095337/composite HUM -2.61%  has dropped 9%, while the broader S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.69%   has climbed 16%.

$ 463.35
+2.36 +0.51%
Volume: 3.13M
Jan. 19, 2022 3:51p
P/E Ratio
Dividend Yield
Market Cap
$434.18 billion
Rev. per Employee
$ 377.77
-10.11 -2.61%
Volume: 1.28M
Jan. 19, 2022 3:51p
P/E Ratio
Dividend Yield
Market Cap
$49.86 billion
Rev. per Employee
-31.64 -0.69%
Volume: 1.98B
Jan. 19, 2022 3:51p

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's Washington bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWgoldstein.

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