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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP) Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 10, 2020

When Joe Biden was asked if he would veto Medicare for All, he punted

If Your Time is short

  • Biden was asked if he would veto a hypothetical version of Medicare for All if he becomes president.

  • Biden’s answer was neither definitive nor concise. 

  • Biden has repeatedly called for expanding Obamacare rather than passing Medicare for All.

The topic of health care divides the Democratic presidential primary between those who call for expanding Obamacare and those who want "Medicare for All."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who supports the Affordable Care Act, has criticized the single-payer Medicare for All system favored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., citing costs as well as other factors.

But does that mean Biden, if elected president, would resist such a bill if it were handed to him by Congress? 

One user on Twitter overinterpreted Biden’s response to this scenario during a March 9 interview with Lawrence O’Donnell. The tweet was crossposted onto Facebook and shared among several Sanders-aligned groups. 

"Joe Biden just told @Lawrence that as president he would veto Medicare for All if it passed both houses and came to his desk," stated the post.

Biden’s actual answer raised a lot of doubts about the hypothetical situation but wasn’t quite that plain.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Here’s what O’Donnell asked Biden: "Let’s flash forward — you are president. Bernie Sanders is still active in the Senate. He manages to get Medicare for All through the Senate in some compromise version, the Elizabeth Warren version or other version. Nancy Pelosi gets a version of it through the House of Representatives. It comes to your desk. Do you veto it?"

"I would veto anything that delays providing the security and the certainty of health care being available now," Biden said.

"If they got that through by some miracle, there was an epiphany that occurred, and some miracle occurred that said okay, it passed, then you got to look at the costs. I want to know, how do they find the $35 trillion? What is that doing? Is it going to significantly raise taxes on the middle class, which it will. What’s going to happen?"

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He went on to explain his current position against the legislation.

"Look, my opposition isn’t to the principle that you should have Medicare. Health care should be a right in America. My opposition relates to whether or not a) it’s doable, 2) what the cost is and what consequences for the rest of budget are. How are you going to find $35 trillion over the next 10 years without having profound impacts on everything from taxes for middle class and working class people as well as the impact on the rest of the budget?"

Some media outlets concluded that Biden’s statements mean he would veto Medicare for All. In context, Biden said he would veto "anything" that made health care less secure and certain as he dismissed the likelihood of the bill getting passed. He emphasized his questions about the cost of the current proposal.

The Biden campaign had no comment.

Our ruling

A viral tweet said, "Joe Biden just told @Lawrence that as president he would veto Medicare for All if it passed both houses and came to his desk."

Biden’s response on MSNBC was not as definitive as the post made it seem.

Biden replied that he "would veto anything that delays providing the security and the certainty of health care being available now." He said if it passed, he would want to look at the costs and the impact on the budget and taxes for the middle class.

To put it another way, Biden only had critical words when asked about Medicare for All, but he didn’t bluntly state he would veto it.

The statement is partially accurate but takes things out of context. We rate this statement Half True.

 

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When Joe Biden was asked if he would veto Medicare for All, he punted

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