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Democrats' subtle fight about who pays for health care

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Although it was anything but straightforward, last night's Democratic health care debate was partially about who pays for health care and how they pay for it.

Case in point: Sen. Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden brought up copays and deductibles in their spat about, among other things, whether to eliminate the employer insurance system.

  • Addressing the fact that the most liberal Medicare for All plans would offer care without deductibles, Biden said, "The fact of the matter is that there will be a deductible — there will be a deductible in their paycheck."

The big picture: We currently pay for health care through taxes, premiums and our out-of-pocket spending. Medicare for All — whether it's full-blown single payer or a public option — shifts at least some of that spending on premiums and deductibles onto taxpayers.

  • That shift would likely hit higher income brackets and corporations harder than lower ones, depending on how the plan is structured.

The bottom line: How receptive Americans are to a more expansive version of Medicare for All is almost certainly related to how they feel about their increasing out-of-pocket obligations.

Related: President Trump is prepping an executive order for next week that's focused on strengthening Medicare, WSJ reports. A White House official said that the order is intended to serve as a point of contrast with Democrats' Medicare for All push.

Go deeper: Workers' health care costs just keep rising