Former Vice President Joe Biden said Monday that Pete Buttigieg, a surging rival for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, “stole” his health care proposal to expand the Affordable Care Act and allow people to choose a government-run insurance plan, known as a public option.
“He stole it,” Biden told reporters on his campaign bus in Iowa, according to Reuters. Biden added that reporters would have criticized him if he had copied someone else’s plan. “What would you have done to me? You’d have torn my ears off,” he said.
Biden’s and Buttigieg’s plans are very similar. Both propose to create a public option, extend federal subsidies for coverage and provide automatic enrollment for low-income Americans in states that have not expanded Medicaid under Obamacare. Both would maintain a private insurance market. Buttigieg calls his plan “Medicare for All Who Want It” — a term Biden has used in Iowa campaigning as well. But Buttigieg has also proposed capping hospital and provider prices at double what Medicare pays them and capping out-of-pocket costs for seniors on Medicare.
It’s not the first time Biden has suggested Buttigieg and other have adopted his plan. He reportedly made similar comments — without an accusation of stealing — in an October interview with an Iowa television station. "Everybody's now adopted the Biden plan. You have Buttigieg, a good guy, and there's others — and I'm happy they're doing it — talking about 'Medicare for all who want it.' That's the Biden plan," he said, according to the Des Moines Register.
Responding to Biden’s comments, the Buttigieg campaign noted that the South Bend, Indiana, mayor had talked about “Medicare for all who want it” months before Biden officially entered the race.
The bottom line: Plenty of candidates besides Biden and Buttigieg have embraced a public option, but the Iowa caucuses are now exactly two months away, so you’re bound to see plenty of journalistic takes on how the gloves are now coming off as the field narrows and candidates jostle for position in the moderate or liberal “lane.”