Castro and Biden Spar Over Semantics, Health Care

The other candidates weren’t having it.

Brian Cahn/ZUMA Wire

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Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro sparred with former Vice President Joe Biden in a contentious moment at Thursday’s third Democratic presidential debate, arguing that Biden couldn’t keep the facts straight about his own health care plan. But Castro seems to have misheard Biden’s own words.

Castro said that Biden’s plan would leave 10 million Americans without health insurance by requiring Americans to opt in to receive coverage.

“You would require them to opt in, and I would not require them to opt in. They would automatically be enrolled,” Castro said. “That’s a big difference, because Barack Obama’s vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered.”

Wearing a shocked facial expression, Biden replied, “They do not have to buy in. They do not have to buy in.”

“Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago?” Castro said, as the audience gasped. “I can’t believe that you said two minutes ago that they had to buy in, and now you’re saying they don’t have to buy in.”

Earlier in the debate Biden had in fact said that those who couldn’t afford private insurance would be automatically enrolled in the public option.

“Anyone who can’t afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option we have,” he said about 10 minutes earlier. He did, however, use the phrase “buy in,” saying, “If you lose the job from your insurance company, from your employer, you automatically can buy in to this.”

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) were unamused with the squabble.

“This is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” Buttigieg said. “This reminds everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington. Scoring points against each other. Poking at each other.”

Klobuchar chimed in, “A house divided cannot stand.”

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