CNN Obamacare Debate Fact-Checked

Full CNN Obamacare Debate: Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz on Affordable Care Act – Fact-Checked

We fact-check the full CNN ObamaCare debate between Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz. We also provide a transcript and the full video.

A Summary of the CNN ObamaCare Debate

Bernie Sanders made arguments for the next best step for Liberals and Progressives to take, albeit taking a more progressive view than some of the party at times. Those steps are:

  1. Protect and Reform the system we have now.
  2. Move toward a Public Option with the end goal being Single Payer.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz made arguments for deregulation and less federal spending on healthcare, albeit taking a less centered view than some recent GOP rhetoric has suggested.

Cruz skewed a lot of facts and cherry picked talking points to make the ACA seem worse than it was, and Sanders failed to fact-check Cruz on many points, often pushing a Progressive Single Payer narrative over a narrative of reforming the ACA.

Neither politician ignored the truth, and both made strong points. They both also used facts chosen to further their agendas.

The debate is well summed up by instances like the following:

When challenged by Cruz that “government run healthcare, like Britain’s NIH, rations care” Bernie came back with “well the current system rations care based on cost.”

This is a very true and strong point, but here both Cruz and Bernie were arguing about idealist systems of single payer vs. “everyone for themselves with no regulation,” and neither were focused on how to reform the Affordable Care Act to help those struggling today. This is ironic since a woman who was struggling with out-of-pocket and premium costs due to being just above the 400% poverty level was standing on stage.

Either man could have noted that premiums don’t get raised by Obama or Washington directly; those aren’t the people who refused to offer plans in states, and those aren’t the ones who refuse to help with costs.

Joe Biden will not drop you when you are sick, and Gruber didn’t invent the mandate system.

Premium increases aren’t unrelated to new regulations, but premiums are raised in boardrooms to ensure extra billions for the shareholders of one of America’s largest industries, healthcare.

Meanwhile, the mandate system is essentially 1 of 3 choices for universal coverage and was first suggested for a US strategy by the Heritage foundation and included in RomneyCare.

When Cruz showed his map of where ObamaCare wasn’t working, he showed a map of states controlled by Republican legislatures. The states that rejected ObamaCare and fought against it on the state level are not doing as well as the states that tried to work with it. I’m sure that wasn’t the point Cruz was trying to make regarding the GOP fighting lockstep against state marketplacesMedicaid gap, and such in an effort to “break the ACA.”

The blame does not lie with government run healthcare. We don’t have that under the mixed-ACA system. It doesn’t lie with a pure free-market, which is something we also lack. It does not lie with the conflict between the Federal Government vs. State Governments.

The blame and solutions, like the law, are all “mixed.” We need answers from both sides of the aisle, not just a choice between “abolish the ACA” and “full-access healthcare for all.” Perhaps people voted anti-establishment, but they didn’t vote for radicalism.

It is points like those above that would have made for a stronger debate about the ACA. The focus on the single payer vs. “survival of the fittest” argument is a valid one, but it is not the one we most need. Opportunities for productive debate were missed as both candidates limited their overall focus to extremes.

There were other problems as well. Cruz stretched the truth so many times that he didn’t do conservative health care arguments justice. He illustrated the GOP’s ideological points of deregulation (their economics and principles) but did little to address healthcare coverage and costs for all Americans, which was supposed to be the subject of the debate.

Meanwhile, Sanders could have done more to help change people’s minds about the ACA. Instead, he dwelled on a theoretical single payer system especially when he opted for exaggerated points rather than nuanced fact.

Bernie Sanders won the debate based on facts, both argued for a more hardline stance toward the left or right than is embraced by either major party. John Adams famously said, “facts are stubborn things.” Nevertheless, each politician put emotion and ideal systems before facts about the Affordable Care Act and our current realities.

We fact-check what was said below.

Ted Cruz vs. Bernie Sanders Debate the Future of Obamacare – 2/7/17 – Full Debate. Watch the debate in full here and then follow along with our fact-check below.

TIP: See a transcript of the full CNN Sanders vs. Cruz debate here.

The Sanders vs. Cruz CNN Debate Fact-Checked

From here forward we will just give a list of fact-checked claims from the CNN debate. This will be done in chronological order of the statements made, but the exact order may get shuffled a bit.

Sanders: Drug costs will go up about $2,000 if the ACA is repealed due to the Medicare doughnut hole fix.

FACT: Yes, if the fix were repealed, drug costs would go up for Seniors, but the GOP haven’t signaled they are seriously considering doing away with the Medicare fix. With that said, Bernie gave a conservative estimate here. Costs could raise as much as $5,000 per person by 2022 according to a 2012 CMS report.

Sanders: Being a woman is considered a preexisting condition due to the possibility of pregnancy.

FACT: This point is verbose, but not completely false. It would be better phrased as “pregnancy is considered a preexisting condition.” In the past, insurance companies could turn you down if you applied for coverage while you were pregnant. Many health plans considered pregnancy a preexisting condition; even women who were not pregnant could be charged more because they might get pregnant. By extension, simply being a woman (and thus having the potential to get pregnant) had “essentially” made being a woman a preexisting condition. Hay fever, pregnancy, repeat visits for headaches, and just about other ongoing health concern is a preexisting condition. If you have been to the doctor, you probably have something that qualifies as a preexisting condition for life insurance. This is part of the reason why the preexisting conditions ban in health insurance offered by the ACA is vital. Gender aside, 1 in 2 Americans have a condition that is considered a preexisting condition. See: Is the Fact that I Am a Woman Considered a Pre-Existing Condition?

Cruz: Cruz said that GOP plans would keep protections for preexisting conditions.

FACT: GOP plans commit the potential crime of our ages, they allow an 18-month exemption for insurers from having to cover preexisting conditions if a person loses coverage for any reason, at any point in their lives, for more than 60 days. See The “Continuous Coverage Exclusion” For Pre-Existing Conditions. This provision has such negative and far-reaching consequences that we wrote a page on it, but Cruz tries to dodge this question during the entire debate.

Sanders: An overwhelming majority of American’s people say do not repeal the ACA, make improvements.

FACT: A poll released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 75 percent of Americans say they either want lawmakers to leave Obamacare alone or amend it. Only twenty percent of those polled said they want to see the law killed immediately. A CNN poll found similar results. However, Sanders’ phrasing implied most people support the ACA, when, in reality, most want to see it improved on. The majority want to see it reformed; an overwhelming majority want to see it reformed or stay the way it is, a minority wants a full repeal.

Sanders: The US is the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care as a right.

FACT: This is 100% true. Thirty-two of the thirty-three developed nations have universal health care including Kuwait, Bahrain, Brunei, Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Singapore, etc. We don’t have universal healthcare, but I do think we can create a better system than we have. Everyone should read articles like this and “follow the money.”

Cruz: Sanders and the Democrats want the government to control your healthcare.

FACT: Sanders wants government in complete control of paying for and regulating healthcare. Many Democrats don’t. Currently, the government is not in control. The regulated, but mostly private insurance industry is in control. Generally “government control of healthcare” doesn’t exist; it is a GOP talking point with some elements of truth to it. The ACA is a “mixed” system, and its biggest sticking points are rooted in costs and industry, not in government. Government ruling that the insurance industry “has to cover sick people” is more like the government doing “its job” than anything else. The system is rationed, the costs are too much for people to afford, and almost all the insurers and providers involved are private. If anything, one could argue we need more government in healthcare and fewer predatory industries sucking billions out of our pockets. Government isn’t “the solution,” but it also, in this case, “isn’t the problem.” Both parties have this half right, but we need a more earnest mix. What we have now isn’t as good as what the American people deserve.

Cruz: “…the average premium rises $5,000, and deductibles go up $5,000; people are hurting because of Obamacare.” Further into the debate, he gives a more specific number saying, “The average American family, your premiums have gone up $5,462.”

FACT: According to the 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation/HRET Employer Health Benefits study, the average annual premium for a family with employer-sponsored coverage rose $5,462 increase between 2008 and 2016. However, those with employer-sponsored coverage only saw an average deductible increase of $800, not $5,000. That study only referred to employer-sponsored coverage for families which many large employers did not offer before the ACA. Those who did have employer-sponsored coverage prior to the ACA were already protected from being charged more or denied coverage for preexisting conditions because of a provision of HIPAA laws. For those who didn’t have employer-sponsored coverage before the ACA, the numbers are a bit harder to pin down. In the old system, junk insurance was sold; people could be charged much more based on preexisting conditions. Those with preexisting conditions saw the prices for the plans they were offered go down, sometimes rather significantly, and that’s just those who were even offered plans before the ACA. Many people were denied by all insurers. Prices went up for people on junk insurance and for those whose insurance companies made a profit by excluding sick people. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Here is a bunch of data on premium increases, here is more data. Individual market plans have also seen increases averaging about $3,612 a year for a family covered through the marketplaces (according to the CNN’s fact-check on the debate), but because of cost assistance, many of those families have not actually had to pay for those increases out of their own pockets. Regardless of the type of insurance (group or individual) premiums increases have slowed since the passage of the ACA.

Cruz: “The Democrats argued no changes at all to Obamacare”

FACT: There have been more than 70 bipartisan amendments to the law since 2010. Cruz and Sanders voted on many of these. Also, Democrats originally wanted more for citizens in the law and Obama naively allowed the GOP to cherry pick it thinking they would respect him. They did not. They politicized RomneyCare, and called it ObamaCare. Eight years later here we are fact-checking a debate over how to fix a starved beast.

Sanders: Before the ACA…if you were a family of four, during the eight years under the George Bush, your premiums doubled.

FACT: Premium growth is slower under Obama in general, but premium growth and out-of-pocket cost growth has been an ongoing problem. Health care premiums did double under Bush, but they increased under Obama too. Specifics aside, the Cruz point on cost and the Bernie point on cost both speak to the underlying industry more than the politicians. The industry is in crisis, politicians are not doing enough, and healthcare is expensive for many reasons. Health care and health insurance are not left-right issues.

Cruz: Government controlling your healthcare is always justified by saying the insurance companies are terrible…

FACT: We are in debt, and for-profit companies are controlling one of the largest economies on earth (the healthcare economy). They are going to catch some flak. But there is no smoking gun; there is a battlefield filled with different types of units. It is a bloodbath, but we can’t play pin the blame all on insurers. They fill a role, and they are only a small part of a larger problem.

CRUZ: In 2008, the 10 largest insurance companies in America made just over 8 billion in profits. In 2015, those same largest companies made 15 billion in profits.

FACT: Insurers make billions, and they made more, not less, under the ACA, but they are also covering millions of more than they were before the ACA. Also, healthcare in the US costs trillions. We aren’t missing 15 billion; we are missing trillions. The real conversation is about bigger money and bigger problems.

Cruz: Bernie Sanders helped write ObamaCare.

FACT: Half of Washington helped write ObamaCare, mostly the half that takes money from industry, the other half’s provisions were cherry picked out before the law was passed, like the public option that was replaced with section 1332. Most of Sanders’ provisions were removed from the final bill. There is a reason it took a century of Civil Rights bills to pass Civil Rights. Congress has a long history cherry picking, earmarks, and pork.

Sanders: The function of insurance companies is not to provide quality health care to all people. It’s to make as much money as they possibly can.

FACT: Cruz and Sanders were both trying to make the point that insurers are benefiting under the ACA. As Cruz says above, we can’t just pin all the blame on them. However, a for-profit company operates for-profit. We know that, and this is the problem with the GOP’s plan of “privatize everything.” Industry gets a lot right. That is why a better middle-ground is a “mixed” system which spends government dollars on non-profit companies and lets private for-profits fill in the blanks if they occur. This is the sort of centered ideas we missed by pitting Sanders and Cruz against each other. We’ll revisit the old issue of CEO compensation. It is big money, but we are talking about a multi-trillion dollar system. It isn’t CEO cash benefits that are only, or even the main, drain on the system.

Sanders: We are the only major country on Earth that allows private insurance companies to run the system.

FACT: Some of the other major countries have mixed-systems. So it’s half true; other countries use a public and private mixes, but most have done away with for-profit insurers for at least basic health care.

Bash (CNN Moderator): If Obamacare is repealed, 52 million Americans could lose that guaranteed coverage because of their medical histories.

FACT: This concept (put forth by Bash when introducing an audience member with cancer called Neo) is  true, the specific number comes from a recent study. Here we should note that most people are going to be charged more for preexisting conditions, not denied. If you have cancer, you’ll face the full 18 month GOP ban, but hay fever may just double or triple your premium. From my figures, about 160 million (half of our 320 million) are in jeopardy. I think 50 million of those facing a ban if they don’t continue coverage is a reasonable estimate based on recent studies.

Cruz: If you look at every proposal that’s been submitted, every significant proposal that’s been submitted to replace Obamacare, to fix the problems in the health care system after Obamacare is gotten rid of, all of them protect people in your situations. All of them prohibit insurance companies from canceling someone because they got sick. They prohibit insurance companies from jacking up the insurance rates because they got sick or injured.

FACT: Cruz is dancing around the “Continuous Coverage Exclusion” For Pre-Existing Conditions. He knows that if Neo doesn’t maintain his coverage, or misses a bill while he is laying the hospital bed fighting for his life, that the GOP plan allows him to be dropped for 18 months. Those are the facts. This is one way in which they plan to bring costs down. If the GOP plan is passed as written, people like Neo will die due to a lack of access to health insurance, that is a “stubborn fact.”

Cruz and Sanders: Sanders says “Senator, I cannot believe what you just said. It’s in direct contradiction to everything you ran for president on. What Ted has said is, he wants to get rid of all federal mandates. Did you say that a hundred times?” and then Cruz says “I didn’t say it once.” and then Sanders says, “[you] said, I will get rid of every word of Obamacare.”

FACT: Cruz ran on getting rid of ObamaCare, that is true. That said, “get rid of ObamaCare” is political-speak for “get rid of the mandates and replace tax and subsidy provisions.” We know as Cruz indicated, “GOP plans seek alternative solutions, they won’t just throw the whole law out.” Still Sanders was right to have a red flag there. Cruz was pulling a fast one as we noted above. As Cruz says, “I said hundreds of times on the campaign trail, yes, we should repeal every word of Obamacare. But if you listen to the next sentence, I always said, we’re not done yet with health care reform, and we do that.” Then he twists the truth again by saying, “And as I said, a proposal that is consistent in virtually every one of the pieces of Republican legislation that’s been filed is a prohibition on insurance companies canceling people because they got sick”… and again “What I’ve said is, is virtually all of the Republican legislation that has been filed that the Democrats have opposed maintains a continuity of coverage so that insurance companies can’t cancel policies.” Cruz is “almost lying.” He is using every trick he can to avoid answering a direct question over and over.

Cruz: People on Medicaid have markedly worse health outcomes than people with private insurance.

FACT: The GOP defunds Medicaid so Medicaid works better in states that are led by Democrats. “Medicaid isn’t great, because it is insurance for poor people, and we don’t support it adequately as a nation.” Insult is added to injury when CMS deals with this by not paying providers for claims. Of course, the same general gambit is true for Medicare, but Seniors are a different demographic of American than poor single adults, so they don’t face the same issues. It is an old political tactic, and one the GOP likes to use, to break something and then complain it doesn’t work (starve the beast it is called). It won’t be the only fact here that gets bogged down in having to explain this ongoing obstructionist tactic. The GOP has tended do this instead of put generate more centrist policy.

Cruz: 6 million people had their insurance policies canceled and got a notification in the mail that they don’t get to see their doctors anymore?

FACT: 6 million were dropped; 4 million got coverage again under the ACA right away; many switched from expensive or junk insurance to cost assisted ACA coverage or their parent’s plan. As for doctors, Obama misspoke on that (probably because of bad advice; either way it was a flub). However, Cruz’s point is total spin. If I drop $100 and pick $75 back up, I lost $25, not $100. Cruz is knowingly spinning the facts here, and that is why he loses the debate. Some of the policy he hints at is debatable, but it isn’t what loses him the higher ground. See more on canceled plans.

Sanders: If you listen carefully to what he’s saying if you go to the doctor tomorrow, and you are diagnosed with a terrible illness, the insurance companies do not have to provide you insurance. That is what Ted said.

FACT: If you listen he said, “IF YOU ALREADY HAVE COVERAGE, then they have to cover you.” Otherwise what Bernie said is correct and Ted again just spun for a few minutes here.

Tapper (Moderator): So, Senator Sanders, you just heard Senator Cruz bring up an issue that a lot of Americans have out there, especially a lot of middle-class Americans, who say that the Affordable Care Act has made it so that their insurance is unaffordable. One of them is in our audience right now. Her name is Melissa Borkowski. She’s a nurse practitioner from Florida. She is a mother of four. She and her husband are paying more than $1,000 a month to insure their family for a plan with a $13,000 deductible. Melissa?

FACT: Melissa is in the worst possible position in America with health care (her story told a thousand times here). A family of 5 making over $113,760 and thus no access to cost assistance, living in a high-cost region. There aren’t a ton of Melissas out there; she is “the forgotten mom” who (at least in part) cost Hillary the election.  Just in case we forgot, not everyone is an oligarch stakeholder in a healthcare company or a have-not begging for alms; there are still some upper-middle class families, earning in the $100k range, who haven’t tapped out their credit cards yet. For them, things got pretty expensive under the ACA. Here I get frustrated because neither Cruz nor Sanders does Melissa justice. The answer could have been that tax credits need to be expanded, or it could have been about deregulating catastrophic plans, but she didn’t get an answer aside from “move to public option and then to single payer.” That or may not be ideal, but what do we do now for Melissa today? How do we tell the forgotten mom that we didn’t forget her?

Cruz: Whenever you put the government in charge of healthcare, what it means is they ration. They decide you get care and you don’t. I don’t think the government has any business telling you you’re not entitled to receive health care.

FACT: As Bernie says, “Well, Ted talks about the problems that exist in other countries in terms of waiting lists. He talks about rationing.  “We have enormous rationing in this country. When you have 28 million people who have no health insurance, that’s rationing. When you have people who can’t afford to go to the doctor or can’t afford to buy prescription drugs, one out of five Americans can’t afford the prescription drugs their doctors prescribe, that’s called rationing. Except there’s no rule on that; there’s no law on that. It’s just people don’t have the money to buy what they need in terms of health care.” To be fair, the ACA a “mixed” system on purpose; the idea is to take the best of what the market offers, utilize non-profits, and to mix that up with effective governmental programs to create the ideal healthcare system. We still have a flawed system, but we don’t need a debate pitting pure capitalism against pure socialism. We need to figure out how to combine centered versions of the two for the very specific problem of healthcare.

Cruz: Rights mean you have a right for government not to mess with you, for government not to do things with you.

FACT: Cruz is confusing liberties, protections, and rights. Liberties are personal freedoms, rights are “rights to” (right to healthcare), and protections are protections from injustices. Liberties (a type of right) are “rights for government not to mess with you.” How about “the right to vote”? I can twist it to say “the right for government not to tell you who you can elect for government,” but that is convoluted. How about “the right not to be charged a poll tax?” How about “the right to healthcare?” in the universal bill of rights? Cruz has a law degree. How can he misunderstand philosophical and legal concepts like liberty, right, protections from damages, and justice? See an essay on liberty, right, equality, and justice or a history of human rights. This is typically a far-right libertarian-minded spin used to justify deregulation. Specifically, the idea is deregulating protections for human rights which the government ensures. Saying the government doesn’t ensure human rights is like saying it isn’t a lawyers job to advocate for their client. It is frustratingly misleading especially since Cruz is supposed to be a legal expert and in a position of authority here.

Sanders: If someone can’t afford something, “having access” to it doesn’t mean anything.

FACT: “Right to healthcare” means “access regardless of economic status.” We once again, have to balance economics and morality here. Cruz argues for economics, and Sanders for morality, both almost never crossing forks, and this speaks to the heart of the world’s problems. Not only does person X need the money, the nation needs a solution that works economically, and thus we must reform the very expensive current healthcare system. We can’t moralize our way out of that point, but we can’t just cite economic and deregulation theory either.

Sanders: We used to have 48 million people in this country who had zero insurance before Obamacare. Now that number, much too high, is 28 million.

FACT: This is true. Here one should note that 100% coverage can only happen with a single payer system. Someone will always opt-out or not enroll if given the option. Even if healthcare were free and came with a baby pony, some people would not sign up. It is a matter of statistics; some number of people being uninsured are built into the law, even more with the rejection of Medicaid expansion by many GOP states.

Tapper: Governors of 31 states, plus the District of Columbia, have opted to expand Medicaid through federal funding, providing insurance to 11 million low-income people.

FACT: The 11 million is about 1/2 of the 20 million covered by the ACA. The rest is the marketplace, employer mandate, and under 26 on their parent’s plan. When Ted Cruz points out that many gains are in Medicaid, he is right. This also points to the fact that millions are left without coverage today because the GOP blocked Medicaid expansion in many states. This is why other nations don’t consider us to have universal coverage.

Cruz: Nationally, 54 percent of doctors won’t take new Medicaid patients. Nationally, dental care appointments for moms are denied at a 63 percent rate on Medicaid. The denial rate for private insurance is 4 percent. And Medicaid patients are almost twice as likely to die from medical treatment as those with private health insurance.

FACT: This is true. Medicaid is not great, but again, the GOP actively picks holes in Medicaid all the time. It is frustrating to hear Republicans complain about Medicaid, as from this perspective I always see it under attack. That said, some Northern Republicans like Pence and Rand have embraced the program and done well so we can’t just criticize. Whatever fault Democrats have, the GOP starts any Medicaid argument from a very weak position. THE BOTTOM LINE: Medicaid works well in some regions, poorly in others (such as regions where the GOP have attacked it since the 1960’s). See: Medicaid: Worst insurance in America? Critics – like Carly Fiorina – who claim Medicaid coverage stinks should talk with parents who’ve actually relied on the program.

Cruz: You’re living in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, where the rich are becoming phenomenally richer while we have 43 million people living in poverty and the middle class is in decline.

FACT: Back in the Roman Republic, they used to call them “Plebs,” income inequality leads to Populists Caesars in all eras, and as Machiavelli knew criminal virtue typically bests virtue in these instances (welcome to today). That said, 43 million people were living in poverty according to a 2015 report. “Middle class” is subjective and the economics of it are too complex to go into, but it isn’t a false claim. I would say that the wealth gap is increasing, but so is the standard of living for many. However, as many as 43 million are living in poverty, and thus there is an economic crisis of sorts, not just a healthcare one.

Sanders: Now, are there problems with Medicaid? Of course, there are. But I will tell you something, to those Republicans governors around the country who told poor people that they would not be able to, for the first time in their lives in many instances, get access to healthcare, to be able to go to a doctor when the federal government paid for the first three years at 100 percent. I hope that those governors sleep well at night because I don’t know how many people lost their lives as a result of their decision.

FACT: True.

Cruz: Well, you know, when Bernie says, well, Medicaid has problems. You want to talk about people who lost their rights, 742 people in Illinois were put on a waiting list for Medicaid after Illinois expanded its Medicaid, Barack Obama’s home state, and they died awaiting care under Medicaid. Why? Because Medicaid is rationed care. Those wait lists — you know, Bernie likes to talk about medical care for all. But let me be clear what his program is. It’s Medicaid for all. It is rationed care nationally.

FACT: First off, the comment about 742 is nonsense. Cruz didn’t want this group to have coverage at all, so complaining about wait times seems unfair. Under Cruz’s plan, the wait time literally was forever. Also, the only story I can find on this is a very questionable opinion piece on In general, expanding care means rationing care in some instances. It is supply and demand, a basic principle of economics. If the government doesn’t provide funds, or if demand increases too quickly, there is rationing. Point one is fixed by government; point two is fixed by supply (of providers) increasing to meet new demands of patients. The result is economic growth and job growth, which is what we want.

Sanders: We have a major crisis in primary care. There are areas in urban America and in rural America where people literally can’t find a doctor to serve their needs. And one of the reasons, a number of reasons for that, one of them is you go to medical school, you can come out hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. And then you’re going to become a plastic surgeon not doing primary care in an urban area or rural America, which tells me we’ve got to expand the program called the National Health Service Corps so that our young people can get their debts repaid if they commit to serving in under-served areas. Let’s get doctors out into the areas where we need them.

FACT: I include this so it is clear. Sanders shows support for rural Americans. I wish he would show more for the middle class.

Cruz: Medicaid isn’t working for millions of people, and Obamacare made Medicaid worse by expanding the wait lists by jamming more people on it. You want to talk about replacement; there’s widespread agreement on replacement plans.

FACT: Again, frustrating rhetoric here. The suggestions in replacement plans to privatize Medicaid could work in theory, but if that is just code for “more chances to defund and break the program on a state level” then I fear we will be revisiting this conversation soon. I don’t want that to be the case, but a lot of what I read suggests “privatize and block-grant” is code for defunding in clever ways over time by taking the power to address it away from the Federal government. This again speaks to the difference between Bernie’s ends, which are a moralist “more care,” and Cruz’s ends which are the conservatively principled, but less humanist, “get government out of healthcare no matter what.”

Cruz: Other solutions (aside block-granting Medicaid) include: Number one, allowing people to purchase across state lines, giving you more choice. Now, Bernie said he opposes that. He doesn’t want to let you buy insurance in other states. Number two, expanding health savings accounts so you can save in a tax-advantaged way to meet your healthcare needs. Number three, making health insurance portable so that it goes with you from job to job. Limit lawsuits and lawsuit abuse.

FACT: All GOP plans do these things, Cruz is accurately listing the major planks of GOP plans.

Sanders: Texas has the highest uninsured rate and Vermont one of the highest (in response to Cruz bragging about Texas).

FACT: 100%true. This is part to do with the difference between a Progressive Sanders ideology and a Texan Conservative Cruz ideology regarding the purposes of government, and part to do with a host of other factors that aren’t purely a comment on left-right politics. States are meant to be different, but in Texas, part of the difference is rejecting Medicaid.

Sanders: Under Obama, we created 15 million new jobs in the private sector.

FACTNot exactly. Bernie is inflating the data and cherry picking here. It is the Democratic party line, but it isn’t very accurate. Job growth is up, not down like some conservatives try to tell us, but it isn’t “15 million new jobs,” and plus, some people lost full-time jobs and went part-time (either by choice or not). Anyway, jobs aren’t the main point here; they were a side point.

Cruz: ObamaCare is bad for young people. The three costliest mandates [like the ban on preexisting conditions] have increased premiums for younger people by 44 percent. Without those mandates, the typical 21-year-old would pay $1,100 a year less. If you’re 21, think about whether it would be easier to afford healthcare if it cost $1,100 a year less.

FACT: This is off base. Young people got the best deal of anyone under the ACA. With cost assistance, Medicaid expansion, and staying on their parents plan included young people get covered for little-to-nothing. Where does Ted Cruz get his numbers? Who knows, his family gets their coverage from Goldman Sachs, why would he know what 21-year olds pay. Who is this unusual 21-year old who doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, cost assistance, or staying on their parent’s plan? I don’t know what to say. The only websites that mention this on the internet are right-wing sites like this with pages put up about the debate after the debate just quoting Ted. I don’t want to say he is making this up, but unlike Bernie, he isn’t citing studies that are published on the internet, and that is a bad sign.

Cruz: Today, under Obamacare, the cheapest plan that’s available for a healthy 30-year-old woman in Ft. Worth is $3,236. It’s gone from $470 to $3,000, over $3,200.

FACT: As the image below shows, there is some truth to what Ted Cruz says, but this is without cost assistance.  A 30-year-old, above the 400% poverty level, who doesn’t have coverage through work is a real minority here. With that said, before the ACA, an equivalent plan would not have cost $40 a month as Cruz implies, only junk insurance for a completely healthy person would have (so I mean did it cost that for some person, maybe? but was it common like the point implies? no). Today a real 30-year-old, one who has access to cost assistance due to income, could actually get a plan for $40 or so. Cruz is just skewing numbers all over the place to fit his narrative. Costs are a real problem, but almost all young people avoid having to deal with the full cost.

Health care costs in Texas. Not as much as Ted Cruz quoted unless you are like the one thirty-year-old in America who makes more than 400% of the poverty level and doesn’t have access to health insurance through work.

Cruz: “You know what? I agree with Bernie.” And they sort of look at me, they’d be startled. They said, “What are you talking about?” I said, “Bernie talks about how Washington is corrupt, how both parties, how both parties are in bed with big business and big money, and it is a corrupt system benefitting special interests. I agree absolutely and entirely. And what I tell folks is where I disagree is in his solution. If the problem is that the government is corrupt, why on earth would you want more power in Washington? I want to take power out of Washington and empower the people. When it comes to taxes, what I want a simple flat tax of 10 percent for everyone and abolish the IRS. That ends the power of lobbyists. It ends the power of Washington. That’s a solution empowers the people.

OPINION: It is true, Sanders and Cruz both agree on corruption in Washington and agree that it is a problem. The answer is probably found somewhere in a centered position. Now let me give my opinion, the answer is not found in a simple flat tax of 10 percent for everyone or in abolishing of the IRS (that is a radical and anarchistic idea from a person who calls themselves “conservative”). We need a progressive tax to ensure a fair system, and the IRS is the one who takes payments toward our 20 trillion dollars of crushing debt. There is lots of room for reform, but when a politician comes out swinging with a sledgehammer, it is scary stuff.

Stay tuned for more updates. We are currently fact-checking the rest of the debate. Expect the page to be edited and fully fact-checked soon. Until this message is removed, forgive any minor errors. See also: Sanders, Cruz debate Obamacare: CNN’s Reality Check Team vets the claims.

Author: Thomas DeMichele

Thomas DeMichele is the head writer and founder of,, and other websites. He has been in the health insurance and healthcare information field since 2012. is a...

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I would also like to mention that most of those who find themselves with out health insurance are generally students, self-employed and those that are without a job. More than half in the uninsured are really under the age of Thirty-five. They do not think they are needing health insurance as they are young along with healthy. Their own income is generally spent on houses, food, as well as entertainment. Most people that do represent the working class either whole or in their free time are not made available insurance by their work so they proceed without with the rising tariff of health insurance in the United States. Thanks for the tips you share through your blog.

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