In one of the most substantive debates I’ve seen in politics in quite a while, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders discussed one of the most pressing political issues that all Americans have had to deal with at some point in their life: healthcare. The substance of the debate revolved around two main questions: 1) Has the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) been successful? and 2) What philosophy of healthcare would best serve the American people.
What made this debate so successful?
- Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders by and large did not make ad hominem attacks on each other’s character and motives. They mostly stuck to debate over policy.
- The CNN moderators (Dana Bash and Jake Tapper) limited their role to moderating, not fact-checking. The moderators also allowed for back and forth between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders. This allowed one side to question or challenge the other that gave the viewing audience key insights into the substance and reasoning of both sides of the debate.
- Responses were not time-limited to 60, 90, or 120 seconds (except on the opening and closing statements). Both sides got to state their opinions to their heart’s content with all of the reasons for why they believe what they believe.
- The audience stayed out of the debate and did not applaud while Bernie and Ted were talking. What often happens during debates is that the audience will cheer for the side that they like when that side makes a point. Debates where this happen will often devolve into a fight for applause rather than a debate over substance. Having no applause also removes any audience bias that could potentially be present and sway the viewer.
Has Obamacare been successful?
How you answer this question will mostly depend on how you define success. If success simply means more people having health insurance, then yes, on that level, Obamacare did have a lot of success. The individual mandate as well as Medicaid expansion greatly increased health insurance coverage for Americans (Bernie kept citing the figure 20 million people). But if you define success to also include lowering the cost of healthcare and increasing the number of options and freedom that we have in healthcare, then it has largely failed.
Rising costs in healthcare, at least 2 million people’s plans being cancelled (“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”), decreasing choices in whom you can get insurance from, over 6 million people being fined for not having health insurance – these are all things Sanders conceded or did not argue with. Politifact did a fairly good fact check of the debate and has verified these claims as well. Bernie, to his credit, did acknowledge that Obamacare “has some problems,” but simply used that as a way to argue that a single-payer, universal health care system would be better. Cruz used these facts to argue that a single payer, government run healthcare would be worse, and that greater freedoms are needed to increase healthcare access and lower costs.
I agree with Cruz. In future posts, I will explain why.
Here is the debate so you can watch it yourself.
Links to my other 2 articles on healthcare: