Healthcare 2020: Joe Biden

Table of Contents:

  1. Building on Obamacare
  2. Taking on Big Pharma

Former Vice President Joe Biden has distinguished himself as one of the Democratic primaries’ more moderate voices. On the debate stage, he has characterized the “Medicare for All” plan touted by Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as a needlessly risky endeavor, even facing criticism for employing what Sanders called “misinformation.” Under such a plan, Biden has warned voters, “Medicare goes away as you know it.” He intends to build on existing healthcare plans rather than starting fresh with a totally new system.

Biden’s insistence on more moderate change obscures the fact that, if passed, his healthcare plan could amount to nothing short of a transformation. Vox’s Matthew Yglesias suggests that it would represent perhaps “the most dramatic piece of social legislation since the Great Society.

Building on Obamacare

Biden has repeatedly emphasized his association with President Barack Obama in an attempt to woo voters. In addition to underlining their shared policy successes, Biden has elected to frame his new health plan as an expansion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). His campaign website describes the ACA as “a victory 100 years in the making” and decries the politicians — on either side of the aisle — who have “attacked” it over the last nine years. To Biden, replacing the ACA with “Medicare for All” would mean undoing the hard work of the Obama-Biden Administration in favor of an untested system. His website reads, “For Biden, this is personal.”

He has called to expand the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with the addition of a public option. The term “public option” should sound familiar to anyone who remembers the debate over the ACA. Effectively, this would provide Medicare-like benefits to anyone in the country regardless of their age or income level. It would not, however, eliminate the private insurance industry. Americans would instead have a choice between private insurance or the government-provided public option.


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The Biden Plan would help to lower the cost of healthcare for the middle class with new tax credits. Biden intends for these tax credits to both lower premiums for working families and provide access to a higher quality of care. His administration would also double America’s investments in community health centers, expand access to mental healthcare, and break up monopolies across the healthcare space.

Taking on Big Pharma

Biden and his more progressive opponents are on the same page when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry and their often outrageous prices. Though he has not used the debate stage to attack the industry with Sanders’ or Warren’s intensity, Biden’s healthcare proposal does not mince words.

He calls to repeal the “outrageous exception” that keeps the drug corporations from negotiating directly with the federal government. Under the Biden Plan, the government would interact with drug companies the same way it does with hospitals and other healthcare providers. For seniors, this will mean an end to “abusively priced” prescription drugs and, potentially, a larger selection of high-quality generics.

The Biden Plan would also expand access to affordable medication by allowing Americans to import prescription drugs from outside of the US, as long as the drugs in question were determined to be safe by the Department of Health and Human Services. By increasing competition, the move would discourage companies from setting the outrageous prices many consumers have come to expect. Drug corporations would lose their tax breaks for advertising purchases, too.

Of the four seniors vying for the Democratic nomination, Biden has tended to fare the best among senior voters. While younger voters have made Senator Sanders the frontrunner as of late, Biden is still hopeful that Americans aged 65 and over can carry him back to the White House in November.