Every Democratic candidate in tonight's NBC debate said they will overhaul America's health-care system so that illegal immigrants are covered.
Moderator Savannah Guthrie polled the 10 candidates, asking for the 2020 contenders to raise their hands if their plan would include coverage for undocumented immigrants.
Every Democrat raised his or her hand.
“Our country is healthier when everybody is healthier,” Pete Buttigieg said. “And remember, we’re talking about something, people are given a chance to buy into. In the same way there are undocumented immigrants in my community, who pay. They pay sales taxes. They pay property taxes directly or indirectly. This is not about a handout. This is an insurance program.”
“And we do ourselves no favor by having 11 million undocumented people in our country be unable to access healthcare,” he continued. “Of course, the real problem is we shouldn’t have 11 million undocumented people with no pathway to citizenship. It makes no sense.”
Former Vice President Biden likewise said he’ll provide free health care for illegal immigrants.
“You cannot let people who are sick no matter where they come from, no matter what their status go uncovered,” Biden said. You can’t do that it’s got to be taken care of. Period. You have to it’s a humane thing to do.”
Here’s a transcript of the exchange:
GUTHRIE: “A lot of you have been talking tonight about these government healthcare plans that you have proposed in one form or another. This is a show of hands question. Hold them up for a moment so people can see. Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants?
(Cheers and Applause)
Okay. Let me start with you, Mayor Buttigieg, Why?
(Cheers and Applause)
Mayor Buttigieg, Why?”
BUTTIGIEG: “Because our country is healthier when everybody is healthier. And remember, we’re talking about something, people are given a chance to buy into. In the same way there are undocumented immigrants in my community, who pay. They pay sales taxes. They pay property taxes directly or indirectly. This is not about a handout. This is an insurance program. And we do ourselves no favor by having 11 million undocumented people in our country be unable to access healthcare. Of course, the real problem is we shouldn’t have 11 million undocumented people with no pathway to citizenship. It makes no sense. And the American people — the American people agree on what to do. This is a crazy thing. If leadership consists of forming a consensus around a divisive issue, this White House has divided us around a consensus issue. The American people want a pathway to citizenship, they want protections for DREAMers. We need to clean up the unlawful immigration system like how my father immigrated to his country. And as part of a compromise, we can do whatever commonsense measures we needed at the border. But Washington can’t deliver on something the American people want. What does that tell you about the system we are living in? It tells you, it needs profound structural reform.”
GUTHRIE: “Thank you. Vice president Biden, I believe you said your healthcare plan would not cover undocumented immigrants. Could you explain your position?”
BIDEN: “I am sorry, I beg your pardon.”
GUTHRIE: “I believe at the show of hands, you did not raise your hand? Did you raise your hand?”
BIDEN: “No, I did.”
GUTHRIE: “Ok. Sorry, Sorry. So you said they would be covered under your plan?”
GUTHRIE: “Which is different than ObamaCare.”
BIDEN: “Yes. But here’s the thing — “
GUTHRIE: “You can explain that change.”
BIDEN: “Yes, you cannot let as the mayor said - you cannot let make people who are sick no matter where they come from, no matter what their status go uncovered. You can’t do that it’s got to be taken care of. Period. You have to it’s a humane thing to do. But here’s the deal, he’s right about three things. Number one, they, in fact, contribute to the well-being of the country. But they also, for example, they’ve increased the life span of Social Security because they have a job, they’re paying Social Security tax. That’s what they’re doing. It’s increased the life span. They would do the same thing in terms of reducing the overall costs of healthcare by then being able be treated and not wait until they’re an extremist. The other thing is folks, look we can deal with these insurance companies- we can deal with these insurance companies by number one putting insurance executives in jail for the misleading advertising, what they’re doing- what they’re doing on opioids, what they’re doing paying doctors to prescribe. We could be doing this by making sure everyone who is on Medicare, that the government should be able to negotiate the price for whatever the drug costs are. We can do this by making sure that we’re in a position that we, in fact, allow people — time’s up?”
HOLT: “Hold off a minute. We need to take a short break here.”