Biden, Obama Discuss Health Insurance, Importance of Being Relatable in Socially Distanced Sit-Down

Getty Images
Joe Biden and Barack Obama

The former president and his VP also spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement and the Democratic presidential candidate's plan to fix the economy while also prioritizing the health of Americans amid a global pandemic.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden talked about a number of hot-button issues — including President Donald Trump's response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, health care, economic recovery, police brutality and the importance of strong leadership — during a socially distanced, in-person sit-down, the video of which went live online on Thursday.

The talk between the 44th president of the United States and the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was first announced on Wednesday with a video depicting Biden and Obama chatting while social distancing (and arriving at the room where they spoke in masks).

"I don't understand his inability to get a sense of what people are going through. He just can't relate in any way," Biden said of Trump's handling of the U.S. health crisis toward the start of the 15-minute conversation. 

"Well, and one of the things that I have always known about you, Joe, is the reason why I wanted you to be my vice president, and the reason why you were so effective, it all starts with being able to relate," Obama replies. "If you can sit down with a family and see your own family in them and the struggles that you've gone through or your parents went through or your kids are going through, then you're going to work hard for them. And that's always what's motivated you to get into public service."

Biden went on to say that he would take a far different approach to the presidency than Trump has, calling out the former Apprentice host's often divisive rhetoric. "[Trump] has been deliberately dividing people from the moment he came down that escalator," he said. "And I think people are now going, 'I don’t want my kid growing up that way.'"

Obama then replied, echoing his earlier sentiments about Biden. "The thing I’ve got confidence in, Joe, is your heart and your character, and the fact that you are going to be able to reassemble the kind of government that cares about people and brings people together," he said. 

Speaking about health care, Biden and Obama brought up the Affordable Care Act, which the Obama Administration passed during its first term. While emphasizing the importance of health care for all, Biden reflected on the death of his son Beau, who died of brain cancer in 2015 at age 46.

"I used to sit there and watch him in the bed and in pain and dying of glioblastoma," said Biden. "And I thought to myself, what would happen if his insurance company was able to come in, which they could have done before we passed Obamacare, and said: ‘You’ve outrun your insurance. You’ve outlived it. Suffer the last five months of your life in peace. You’re on your own.'"

Early on in his presidency, Trump tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. However, Republicans in Congress were unsuccessful in their attempts to roll back the law in 2017. Still, Trump has made more efforts to get rid of Obamacare and is now asking the Supreme Court to overturn it. 

Obama described the Affordable Care Act as a "starter house," leaving room for Biden to expand upon his health care plan if he is elected in November. 

When speaking about this summer's reignited Black Lives Matter movement — a direct response to the killing of George Floyd and unceasing police brutality against Black people — Obama touted Biden's receptiveness to the stories of those who have been impacted by systemic racism in this country. 

"This is a process we’re all going through, and we’re all learning," Obama said. "And something I’ve always admired about you, Joe, is your willingness to listen and to learn. It is a sign of leadership when you’re willing to hear other people’s experiences."

While discussing the intersection of the COVID-19 crisis and the struggling U.S. economy, Obama backed Biden's assertion that the health of Americans is just as important as the country's financial growth. "You can’t separate out the public health crisis from the economy," Obama said. "If you want the economy growing, people have to feel safe."

Added Biden, “What you did, and what all great presidents do, is persuade."

Watch Biden and Obama's full conversation below.