Rivals put Warren on spot over taxes and health care

In her first debate as a frontrunner, Sen. Elizabeth Warren faced attacks over her position on health care.

Warren is a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, which will transition all Americans onto a single-payer health care plan where costs are paid by the government. Over the last few months, moderators and reporters have repeatedly attempted to get Warren to say that taxes on the middle class will go up under the plan. She has consistently declined, focusing on the fact that under the plan, total costs will go down for families because they’ll no longer have to worry about the costs of premiums, copays or deductibles.

After Warren again declined to state that taxes would go up, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg went on an attack he has been telegraphing.

“We heard it tonight: a yes-or-no question that didn’t get a yes-or-no answer,” said Buttigieg. “Look, this is why people here in the Midwest are so frustrated with Washington in general and Capitol Hill in particular. Your signature, Senator, is to have a plan for everything except this.”

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Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a rally Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at Macalaster College during a campaign appearance in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a rally Monday, Aug. 19, 2019 at Macalaster College during a campaign appearance in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Supporters wave signs before Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks at a rally Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at Macalaster College during a campaign appearance in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a rally Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, at Macalaster College during a campaign appearance in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) comes out to a standing ovation, lays out her recently release immigration plan even as immigration protesters shouted her down at the Netroots Nation 2019 Presidential candidates forum in Philadelphia, PA on July 13, 2019. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, NH - JULY 8: U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren appears during her town hall event at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, NH on July 8, 2019. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, NH - JULY 8: Jo-Ann Finn pins an Elizabeth Warren pin onto her shirt before attending a town hall event held by U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, NH on July 8, 2019. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, NH - JULY 8: U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaks during her town hall event at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, NH on July 8, 2019. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, NH - JULY 8: U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren appears during her town hall event at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, NH on July 8, 2019. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, NH - JULY 8: A supporter waves her fan during a town hall event held by U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, NH on July 8, 2019. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
PETERBOROUGH, NH - JULY 8: Attendees hold up signs during a town hall event held by U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at the Peterborough Town House in Peterborough, NH on July 8, 2019. (Photo by Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JULY 06: Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks at the 25th Essence Festival at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Josh Brasted/FilmMagic)
UNITED STATES - JULY 4: Supporters of presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., chant during the Boulder City Damboree Celebration 4th of July parade in Boulder City, NV on July 4, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 4: Supporters of presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., chant before the start of the start of the Boulder City Damboree Celebration 4th of July parade in Boulder City, NV on July 4, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Marilyn Beilstein (L) of Nevada poses for a photo with Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) after she spoke at a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to members of the media after holding a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (C) poses with attendees after she spoke at a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) hugs Clark County Democrats Chairwoman Donna West after Warren spoke at a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (L) talks with former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani after Warren spoke at a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NBC NEWS ELECTION COVERAGE -- The First Democratic Debate -- Pictured: Elizabeth Warren at The Knight Concert Hall, Miami Florida on Wednesday, June 26,, 2019-- (Photo by: Gustavo Cabellero /NBC News/MSNBC/Telemundo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren with NBC anchor Chris Matthews in the Spin Room after participating in the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is seen on a television at a watch party for the first Democratic presidential primary debates for the 2020 elections in Miami on Wednesday, June 26, 2019. (John McCall/Sun Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren speaks in the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren is shown on a screen in the spin room during the first Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by NBC News at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Florida, June 26, 2019. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 26: Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is displayed on a monitor inside the spin room during the first Democratic presidential primary debate for the 2020 election at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 26: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) takes the stage during the first night of the Democratic presidential debate on June 26, 2019 in Miami, Florida. A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren is swarmed by the press while visiting at the Homestead Detention Center ahead of the first Democratic debate on June 26, 2019 in Homestead, Fla. (Daniel A Varela/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
Senator of Massachusetts and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren stands on a ladder with an unidentified girl, and gestures to migrant children in front of a detention center in Homestead, Florida on June 26, 2019. - Democrats are in Miami, Florida for their first debate -- and first inflection point -- of the 2020 election cycle, with ex-vice president Joe Biden taking the stage as frontrunner for the first time. Ten candidates including Senator Elizabeth Warren square off Wednesday, while Thursday's 10 feature Biden and three others polling in the top five. (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP) (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Senator of Massachusetts (D) and Democratic Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren gestures as she speaks during a town hall meeting at Florida International University in Miami, Florida on June 25, 2019. (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP) (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses the crowd at the We Decide: Planned Parenthood Action Fund 2020 Election Forum to Focus on Abortion and Reproductive Rights event in Columbia, SC on June, 22 2019. - Many of the Democratic candidates running for president are in Columbia to make appearances at the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention and the Planned Parenthood Election Forum on June 22. (Photo by Logan Cyrus / AFP) (Photo credit should read LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 22: Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addresses the crowd at the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. Democratic presidential hopefuls are converging on South Carolina this weekend for a host of events where the candidates can directly address an important voting bloc in the Democratic primary. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 22: Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) rally outside of the 2019 South Carolina Democratic Party State Convention on June 22, 2019 in Columbia, South Carolina. Democratic presidential hopefuls are converging on South Carolina this weekend for a host of events where the candidates can directly address an important voting bloc in the Democratic primary. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 21: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at the Democratic presidential candidates NALEO Candidate Forum on June 21, 2019 in Miami, Florida. At left is moderator Arturo Vargas and at right is Vanessa Hauc. (Photo by Joe Skipper/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - JUNE 15: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) waves to the audience during the Black Economic Alliance Forum on June 15, 2019 in Charleston, South Carolina. The Black Economic Alliance, is a nonpartisan group founded by Black executives and business leaders, and is hosting the forum in order to help Black voters understand candidate's platforms. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
WINDHAM, NH - JUNE 14: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks during a house party in Windham, New Hampshire on June 14, 2019. (Staff Photo By Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)
DYERSVILLE, IOWA - JUNE 10: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks with Raymond Defenbaugh during a visit to the Big River United Energy ethanol facility during a campaign stop on June 10, 2019 in Dyersville, Iowa. Yesterday Warren joined 19 other candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination at the Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner in Cedar Rapids. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - JUNE 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on June 9, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nearly all of the 23 Democratic candidates running for president were campaigning in Iowa this weekend. President Donald Trump has two events scheduled in the state on Tuesday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - JUNE 09: Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wait for her to arrive at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on June 9, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nearly all of the 23 Democratic candidates running for president were campaigning in Iowa this weekend. President Donald Trump has two events scheduled in the state on Tuesday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - JUNE 09: Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on June 9, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nearly all of the 23 Democratic candidates running for president were campaigning in Iowa this weekend. President Donald Trump has two events scheduled in the state on Tuesday. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
MSNBC - Election Coverage "All In With Chris Hayes Town Hall with Elizabeth Warren" Pictured: (l-r) Chris Hayes, Elizabeth Warren (Photo by: Michael HickeyMSNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - June 1: Supporters scream as Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks to thousands of CA delegates at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California Saturday June 1, 2019. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
THE VIEW - Senator Elizabeth Warren is the guest today, Thursday, May 30, 2019 on Walt Disney Television via Getty Images's "The View." "The View" airs Monday-Friday, 11am-12pm, ET on Walt Disney Television via Getty Images. (Photo by Jeff Neira/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) ELIZABETH WARREN, SUNNY HOSTIN, MEGHAN MCCAIN
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MAY 30: A billboard with an image of Democratic presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on May 30, 2019 in San Francisco, California. The presidential campaign for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren posted a billboard in the South of Market Area of San Francisco that calls for breaking up big tech. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - MAY 16: Voters listen during a campaign town hall of Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) at George Mason University May 16, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia. Sen. Warren held a town hall to tell her plans for Americans and answer questions from voters. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - MAY 16: Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a campaign town hall at George Mason University May 16, 2019 in Fairfax, Virginia. Sen. Warren held a town hall to tell her plans for Americans and answer questions from voters. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren gestures as she speaks during a campaign stop at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia on May 16, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren gestures as she speaks during a campaign stop at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia on May 16, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold signs as they attend a campaign stop held by Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia on May 16, 2019. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 13: Democratic presidential hopeful, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) holds Francina Seedman-Stout, 8 months, after a teacher's union townhall on May 13, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the event hosted by the American Federation of Teachers, Warren spoke to about 200 educators, according to published reports. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
IOWA FALLS, IA - MAY 3: An image of 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is seen on a book held by an attendee during a campaign event at Rivers Bend Bed & Breakfast in Iowa Falls, Iowa on May 3, 2019. (Photo by Daniel Acker for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 24: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) waves to a crowd at the She The People Presidential Forum at Texas Southern University on April 24, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Many of the Democrat presidential candidates are attending the forum to focus on issues important to women of color. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 24: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to a crowd at the She The People Presidential Forum at Texas Southern University on April 24, 2019 in Houston, Texas. Many of the Democrat presidential candidates are attending the forum to focus on issues important to women of color. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
SOMERVILLE, MA - APRIL 12: US Senator Elizabeth Warren addresses the media and Stop & Shop workers on the picket line at the Stop & Shop in Somerville, MA on April 12, 2019. US Senator Elizabeth Warren joined Stop & Shop workers on a picket line outside a Somerville store as the strike against New Englands largest supermarket chain enters its first full day Friday. Stop & Shop workers in southern New England walked off the job on Thursday, April 11, after more than 31,000 employees last month authorized their labor leaders to call for a work stoppage amid increasingly strained contract negotiations. (Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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Buttigieg has been promoting a public option plan that would retain private insurance, although his plan wouldn’t guarantee universal coverage to all Americans.

“My view on this and what I have committed to is costs will go down for hard-working middle-class families,” said Warren. “I will not embrace a plan like ‘Medicare for All Who Can Afford It’ which will leave behind millions of people who cannot, and I will not embrace a plan that says people have great insurance right up until they get the diagnosis and the insurance company says, ‘Sorry, we’re not covering your expensive cancer treatments.’”

Warren was also pushed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has attempted to stake out a centrist lane in the primary but has failed to gain traction.

“At least Bernie is being honest here, and saying how he’s going to pay for this and that taxes are going to go up,” said Klobuchar, adding, “I appreciate Elizabeth’s work but the difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something you can actually get done.”

Klobuchar has been pushing for a public option, saying it will fulfill President Barack Obama’s original plan for the Affordable Care Act in 2008. She added that a public option would be easier to pass than Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, but the insurance industry is united in its opposition to both types of legislation.

Sanders came to Warren’s defense, closing out the discussion by stating that he gets “a little bit tired of people defending a system which is dysfunctional, which is cruel.”

“The issue is whether the Democratic Party has the guts to stand up to the health care industry which made $100 billion in profit,” said Sanders. “Whether we have the guts to stand up to the corrupt price-fixing pharmaceutical industry which is charging us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs and if we don’t have the guts to do that, if all we can do is take their money we should be ashamed of ourselves.”

The American health care system is among the most expensive in the world, and also has some of the highest prescription drug costs. At the same time, 28 million people are without health coverage and 79 million have medical debt, and crowdfunding sites to help cover medical expenses are proliferating.

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