Earlier this week, campaigning in Iowa, Joe Biden chose to manifest his nervous energy around Pete Buttigieg’s climbing poll numbers by instigating a fight absolutely no one wanted: As the presidential candidate told reporters, the Biden campaign believes Buttigieg ripped off Biden’s healthcare policy. “He stole it,” said Biden. “It’s the Biden plan.”
Buttigieg’s plan—the lukewarm “Medicare for all who want it”—and Biden’s are indeed similar, in that both allow the insurance industry to operate more or less as it has for decades, albeit with the additional competition of a public option. (Buttigieg, it should be noted, simply has a snappier tagline, which is in itself a riff on another candidate’s platform, because politics is simply remixing ideas until everyone is dead.)
Both plans would continue to allow employers to act as gatekeepers for private healthcare coverage, rely heavily on the existing structures that govern care, and would offer a doubtlessly lower-tier Medicare-type coverage for people without the means to purchase private insurance. It’s the obvious answer for moderate candidates weighing support of Medicare for All next to industry group pressure and the well-tread specter of the “many” Americans who are “satisfied with their current health care.” Recently, one former Obama and Clinton health strategist called Biden’s plan “radically incremental,” which tells you nearly everything you need to know.
Still, Biden insisted on telling reporters Buttigieg simply didn’t have “the enthusiasm ... and the moderate plan,” which, as he reiterated, was the “Biden plan.” Predictably, Buttigieg’s people dug up a few interviews from earlier this year in which the candidate discussed his healthcare views, proving once and for all that Buttigieg was the first to conceptualize this policy program crafted specifically to appeal to everyone and no one at once. Congratulations to all involved.