Tonight’s CNN debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) didn’t carry with it the same attention as the numerous presidential events during the 2016 election, but this was still a debate I had been looking forward to for weeks. Here we had one of the most beloved liberals in Congress and a staunch advocate for universal health care, going up against a man who wants to repeal “every last word of Obamacare.”
And let me just say, this did not disappoint.
I won’t say Cruz did poorly – he tends to do very well in debates – but it was clear Sanders absolutely owned him throughout the night.
It didn’t take long before Cruz actually backed himself into a corner. While trying to argue that Obamacare doubled the profits for health insurance companies, he effectively outlined Sanders’ argument about why we need true universal health care.
The top talking point Republicans have used against the law is that premiums have gone up. Well, Cruz’s argument was that while these premiums went up — these for-profit health insurance companies have doubled their profits. Meaning that these for-profit companies are using the law as an excuse to jack up the prices of premiums even though, obviously, they’re not losing money — they doubled their profits.
Even when Cruz tried to argue that Americans have the “best health care,” saying that nations with universal health care have longer wait times, Sanders countered that by pointing out that waiting slightly longer for a procedure is a much better option than tens of millions of people not being able to afford treatment at all.
Cruz even pointed to a graph showing where many counties didn’t have more than a couple of options for health care due to the law. However, what he didn’t mention is that the vast majority of those counties were in states where Republican governors refused to cooperate with the law. Another way to look at that chart would have been to say that the counties that had more options for health care companies were in places where state governors worked with the law, making it much more effective, proving that Republican legislatures have been doing whatever they can at the state level to sabotage the law.
When the Texas senator tried to use cherry picked examples from nations with universal health care to claim that “rationing” puts lives at risk, Sanders countered that by bringing up the reality that millions of Americans go without health care, with many dying, because they don’t have access to health insurance. This was another example where Cruz tried to argue that longer waits are somehow worse than no coverage at all.
Sanders also nailed a great point when he mentioned that countries like Canada and England have had conservative leadership, but weren’t rushing to get rid of their universal health care. That’s something you would almost certainly think these folks would do if these universal health care systems were as disastrous, deadly and unpopular as Republicans like Cruz frequently try to con Americans into believing they are.
The weakest point for Sanders was when he had to address a small business owner who said she can’t expand her business because doing so would require her to provide health care for employees, which she couldn’t do without raising prices or lowering wages. Though, as with Cruz, all she was really doing was making a great argument for why we need universal health care.
My favorite part of the evening came when Cruz tried to push this idea that “access” will help lower costs. Sanders completely shredded that notion by pointing out that it’s not access to health care that people are having problems getting, but it’s the ability to pay for the high costs of that care that’s the problem.
The best way I would summarize tonight’s event would be to say both senators made great arguments for why we need to get rid of for-profit health care and enact universal health care like most of the modern world. While Cruz clearly opposes universal health care, practically every argument he made against it — was actually an argument for why we need it.
Without a doubt, Bernie Sanders proved to the nation why, as long as rational people keep fighting, in the end, we will win when it comes to this issue. While the battle won’t be easy, the end result – true universal health care for every American – is worth every second we spend fighting for it.