President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday made their closing arguments on healthcare in the final televised debate before the presidential election on Nov. 3.
Debate moderator and NBC News journalist Kristen Welker pushed the candidates to defend their healthcare plans. Both Trump and Biden were more disciplined and measured than the raucous performances in their first debate.
Trump boasted about dismantling the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, and implied his administration could have taken further steps to undermine the law.
"I could have gone the other way and made people very unhappy," Trump said.
When asked how he would replace the ACA if it is struck down in court, Trump repeated his claims that he would protect patients with preexisting conditions without providing more details about how he would do so. Biden pounced.
"There's no way he can protect preexisting conditions. He can't do it in the ether," Biden said.
Biden hit Trump for supporting a lawsuit that could strike down the ACA and strip healthcare coverage from millions of people, and in response Trump claimed that Biden's public insurance option proposal would terminate the policies of individuals with employer-sponsored insurance.
The public option as described in the Democratic platform would be available to individuals who are offered employer-sponsored insurance, but the market impacts of a public option depend on details that have not yet been outlined.
"Not one single person with private insurance would lose their insurance under my plan," Biden said.
Biden said that one of the factors that distinguished him in a crowded Democratic primary was his support of private health insurance.
"I beat all these other people because I disagreed with them," Biden said in response to Trump's claims that he was advancing "socialized medicine."
Trump also criticized the cost of Biden's proposal, which Biden acknowledged his campaign estimated would be $750 billion over 10 years.
"When he is talking about a public option, he is talking about destroying your Medicare and Social Security," Trump said.
Biden cited a report by the Social Security Administration's chief actuary that found that the payroll tax holiday Trump supports and promised to permanently institute if reelected would deplete Social Security by 2023.