Evenly matched debate between Cruz and Sanders over Obamacare

Photo courtesy of CNN
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Texas Senator Ted Cruz debate the future of Obamacare in a televised CNN event.

Robert Beiler

Associate Opinion Editor

When U.S. Senators Burnie Sanders (I-VT) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) debated on CNN on Tuesday, Feb. 7, the result was far more lighthearted than any of the presidential debates.

The entire hour long presentation focused on the future of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

The two senators presented very different visions on the topic. Sanders took the opportunity on multiple occasions throughout the evening to refer to his Medicare-for- all expansion concept which was a hallmark of his 2016 presidential primary campaign. Meanwhile, Cruz believed the swift repeal and replacement of the ACA was a better solution.

The Texas congressman also made multiple mentions of President Donald J. Trump’s campaign promises to allow competition of private insurance companies between states. The current system requires that companies offer coverage within an individual state.

Cruz came prepared to the debate, citing numbers and wanting to paint the event as fact-based. Though he mentions many statistics throughout the debate, he failed to on many occasions cite where these facts come from. One that he came back to was former President Barrack Obama’s statement in his administration that “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” about the ACA. Cruz claimed in the debate that President Obama said this statement 37 times.

Cruz also used the phrase “common sense” about his ideas and solutions. This includes opening up competition between states. While there were many jabs at each other throughout the event, it was clear the two took the matter seriously.

“Healthcare is personal in a way that is different from most other political issues,” Cruz said in his opening statement. “Healthcare affects our families, it’s our moms. Healthcare is our kids. It’s the future. It can be quite literally whether we live or die.”

Sanders dropped the ball a bit about midway through the debate. LaRonda Hunter, who owns five salons in Texas, asked the senator how she could afford to expand her business. She currently has hired approximates 48 employees. Under the ACA, employers are required to offer an insurance option if their business employees more than 50 people. Hunter questioned how she could do this without raising prices or lowering wages.

Sanders didn’t answer the question. Instead, he leaned on the necessity of business owners to offer an insurance option to their employees. His insistence wasn’t clear, but he appeared to be saying that not having to worry about healthcare would lead to more productive employees.

While it was not mentioned, this would have been a perfect opportunity to repeat his call for a single payer system. With the existence of a public option, small businesses would see some of the burden lifted off them when it comes to healthcare. This would increase tax burden, but would take away the individual businesses need to offer. Therefore, they could expand without policies like the fifty- employee mandate kicking in.

Sanders got in a few good hits though. At one point during the debate, Cruz stated that access to healthcare was a right, but not the healthcare itself. Sanders then responded “access doesn’t mean a damn thing” if it is unaffordable.

The two did agree on a few points throughout the night. The two agreed to fight against pharmaceutical companies, with both saying the industry has too much control over congress. Sanders also agreed with Cruz’s legislation to require the FDA to approve drugs that had been approved by other industrialized nations.

This of course does not overcome the two’s fundamental differences. Sanders believes the government has a role to play in guaranteeing everyone healthcare, while Cruz believes everyone should have the right to choose their healthcare (or choose not too) without government interference.

With Republican control of Congress and the White House, it does appear Senator Cruz’s ideas may be the more likely to be put forth. Sanders and the Democrats he caucuses with will struggle to see anything close to the single payer ideal at least until the mid-term elections in 2018.