“I wouldn’t do it differently,” the former Obama administration housing secretary told CNN on Friday. “That was not a personal attack. This was about a disagreement over what the vice president said regarding health care policy.”
In an explosive moment Thursday night, Castro criticized Biden’s plan for health care, which would allow Americans to “opt in” to Medicare-type coverage if they want it.
“The difference between what I support and what you support … is that you require them to opt in and I would not require them to opt in, they would automatically be enrolled ― they wouldn’t have to buy in,” Castro said.
Biden shot back, “They do not have to buy in,” explaining that someone who qualifies for Medicaid, for example, “would automatically be enrolled.”
That was when Castro took a swing at Biden’s memory: “Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago? I mean, 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. You’re forgetting that.”
Biden had, in fact, previously said: “If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance ― from your employer, you automatically can buy into this.”
Still, at least two other candidates saw Castro’s comment as a low blow. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar told CNN after the debate it “was so personal and so unnecessary,” likening it to “something that Donald Trump might tweet out.”
It also drew real-time backlash from South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who said onstage that the quibbling “is why presidential debates are becoming unwatchable,” calling it a reminder to “everybody of what they cannot stand about Washington.”
But on Friday, Castro showed no signs of backing down.
“It’s about the fact that his plan would require you to buy in at certain times, which means that 10 million people would be uncovered,” he said, arguing that he “pointed out this big difference in our approach.” Biden has acknowledged that his plan would cover 97% of the country, leaving the remaining 3% ― about 10 million Americans ― uninsured.
As a PolitiFact review of the exchange points out, both plans would ensure Americans access to Medicare if they need it. The main difference is that “Castro’s plan is an opt-out plan while Biden’s is an opt-in plan.”
That distinguishing factor “would likely amount to the nature or timing of paperwork, rather than being significant barriers to access,” PolitiFact notes, contending that the basis for Castro’s attack on Biden’s plan was ill-founded.