Joe Biden draws line against progressives on health care

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Joe Biden is taking an aggressive approach to defending the Affordable Care Act, challenging not just President Donald Trump but also some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination who want to replace the current insurance system with a fully government-run model.

The former vice president has spent the past several weeks highlighting his support for the health care law often called "Obamacare." He told voters in Iowa that he was "against any Republican [and] any Democrat who wants to scrap" the law. He's also talked of "building on" Obamacare.

He released a proposal today to add a "public option" to the 2010, paying for expanded coverage paid tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. Returning to Iowa, he touted the public option as "the quickest ... most rational way to get universal coverage." A sudden transition to "Medicare for All," he said, "is kind of risky."

Biden hopes his positioning as Obamacare's chief defender will remind voters of his work alongside former President Barack Obama, who remains popular among Democrats. And it could reinforce his pitch as a sensible centrist promising to rise above the strident cacophony of Trump and more liberal Democrats who are single-payer advocates.

The emerging divide between Biden and his progressive rivals could allow him to go on offense ahead of the next debates at the end of the month. Biden spent recent weeks on defense, reversing his position on taxpayer funding for abortions and highlighting his long-ago relationships with segregationist senators.

During the first debates, Sen. Kamala Harris of California slammed Biden for his Senate recollections and his opposition to federal busing orders to desegregate public schools during the same era.

Those episodes called Biden's front-runner status into question, and it was clear over the weekend he wanted to turn the tables on his rivals backing Medicare for All.

"I think one of the most significant things we've done in our administration is pass the Affordable Care Act," Biden said in New Hampshire. "I don't know why we'd get rid of what in fact was working and move to something totally new."

He argued his 2020 opponents, with the exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, aren't fairly representing the consequences of their proposals.

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