Biden Says Buttigieg ‘Stole’ His Health Care Plan

Biden Says Buttigieg ‘Stole’ His Health Care Plan

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Plus, the Navy's largest shipbuilding contract ever
Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Joe Biden Says Pete Buttigieg ‘Stole’ His Health Care Plan

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.”

How a Public Option Would Affect the Insurance Market

Biden, Buttigieg and several other Democratic presidential candidates say a public option for health insurance would provide a more moderate, less disruptive alternative to the Medicare for All plan backed by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. But how would a public option affect the insurance market and employer-provided coverage? Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times says much depends on how the public option is set up.

There’s no doubt, Sanger-Katz says, that a public option would be less disruptive than a plan that eliminates all private insurance, as Medicare for All is designed to do. But a comprehensive public option could also cause considerable upheaval if it’s able to negotiate lower prices with doctors and hospitals and thereby offer similar coverage at a lower price. “Insurers would have to adjust,” she writes. “Either they would also have to lower prices, or they would have to offer some sort of special services. Otherwise, they would lose a lot of customers.”

A less robust public option, on the other hand, may not have much of an effect on the market. If the government plan is unable to negotiate lower prices from service providers, it will end up looking like just another insurance company to most consumers, with little to recommend it as an alternative to existing private insurance.

The safer-seeming public option, then, is a bit of a contradiction: It gets more disruptive as it provides a better product. “The political appeal of the public option is it preserves the choice of private insurance,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “But the better it works, then the less likely it is to actually preserve a private insurance market.”

Read Sanger-Katz’s full piece here.

Navy Awards Largest Shipbuilding Contract Ever

The U.S. Navy awarded a contract Monday worth more than $22 billion to build nine new attack submarines. The agreement with General Dynamics Electric Boat includes an option for a 10th sub, which would bring the total cost to $24 billion.

The order will add to the Navy’s current fleet of 18 Virginia-class submarines, a nuclear-powered platform that entered service in 2004. The new ships are scheduled for delivery between 2025 and 2029, and some could see service into the 2070s.

Some details about the subs:

  • Virginia-class submarines can fight other subs and surface ships and launch missiles at land-based targets.
  • Displacing 10,200 tons and 460 feet long, the ships are significantly larger than the Los Angeles-class attack subs they are replacing.
  • The subs generate their own water and oxygen, enabling them to stay submerged for months at a time.
  • Eight of the nine will be built with a new payload module that will increase the number of Tomahawk missiles onboard to 40.
  • The price tag does not include all equipment needed for operations. With the necessary equipment included, the total cost of the subs rises to about $35 billion.
  • Ordering so many ships at once is intended to reduce costs by as much as $4.4 billion, according to James Geurts, the Navy’s top acquisition official.

Bad News for Charity on Giving Tuesday

“Despite Giving Tuesday and despite all the charitable appeals that almost certainly landed in inboxes, charitable donations by individuals declined by slightly more than 1 percent in 2018, according to figures released this year by Giving USA,” says The Washington Post’s Helaine Olen. “One likely culprit? The Republican and Trump tax ‘reform’ package of 2017. The rich got richer, while many charities took it on the nose.”

The total dollar value of charitable giving rose slightly last year, Olen says, but the increase was driven by large donations from foundations and the wealthy, who tend to support high-status organizations involved in the arts, medicine and education. More mundane organizations such as food banks rely on support from low- and middle-income donors, and that’s where the decline in giving is being felt, according to experts Olen spoke to.

“[T]his sudden dip in what is otherwise a reportedly decent economy leaves many pointing the finger at President Trump’s tax cut,” Olen writes. “When the standard deduction doubled, it eliminated the need for many people to itemize their tax return. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the number of filers itemizing their returns fell from 46 million to 19 million. The change in the law made tax filing easier for many middle-income filers, but it also suddenly eliminated a major incentive to give to charity. If you don’t itemize, you can’t take the charitable deduction.”

Number of the Day: 62,000

The Trump administration’s tariffs on solar panels will result in the U.S. solar industry creating around 62,000 fewer jobs between 2017 and 2021 and $19 billion in lost private sector investment, according to a report published Tuesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry trade group.

Chart of the Day: Record Low Poverty Rate

The extensive array of government assistance programs — including Social Security, unemployment insurance, veterans’ benefits, nutritional aid, rental assistance and the Earned Income Tax Credit — have a powerful effect on reducing poverty levels,  the effect is growing, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“In 1967, economic security programs lifted above the poverty line just 4 percent of those who would otherwise be poor,” the report says. “By 2017, that figure had jumped to 43 percent.”

Using a version of the Census Bureau’s supplemental poverty measure — a more comprehensive assessment that takes a wide variety of factors into account, including housing subsidies, nutrition programs and location — CBPP found that the poverty rate fell to a record low in 2018:

“Before taking government benefits and tax policies into account, poverty has improved only modestly over the past five decades, falling from 27.0 percent to 25.4 percent between 1967 and 2017. But after accounting for these benefits and taxes, the poverty rate fell from 26.0 percent in 1967 to 14.4 percent in 2017. The latest Census data that use new processing methods show that poverty further declined from 2017 to 2018.”


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