Will the Real Joe Biden Please Stand up on Health Care?

Will the Real Joe Biden Please Stand up on Health Care?
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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America’s voters and medical patients deserve straight talk from Joe Biden about his health care policies. Throughout the Covid-19 crisis of 2020, health care providers have persevered to ensure care remained available in the face of great uncertainty. However, on matters of health care policy the former Vice President’s equivocation presents concerns for what health care policies America will get along with a Biden White House victory.

Throughout the campaign, Biden has offered little in terms of a concrete policy agenda and has explicitly avoided being pinned down on hot topic items. For example, when asked about court-packing, Biden told reporters “you’ll know my position on court-packing the day after the election.” He has done the same on health care, where on the one hand he dedicated his opening statement in September’s debate to attacking the Trump administration’s efforts to unravel the Affordable Care Act. On the other hand, Biden has expressed support for the “principle” of a Medicare for All-type system that inserts government between the patient-physician relationship, and he refused to say whether or not he would veto a bill passed by Congress.

In the Democratic primaries, Biden seemed to be one of the few Democratic voices to oppose Medicare for All-type health care. He opposed the Bernie Sanders-sponsored universal health care plan on budgetary grounds and the likelihood that such legislation would eliminate ACA. He also argued the expense of such an overhaul would have “profound impacts on everything from taxes for [the] middle class.”

That has changed since securing the nomination. Biden has welcomed Sanders and his policy team under the campaign tent. The Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force platform proposed a public option health plan under ACA that would be administered by Medicare. In other words, Medicare for All proponents get their universal health care plan as long as it is a part of ACA. Bernie Sanders endorsed the task force’s proposal in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd saying, “Joe Biden will become the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

Biden’s dodgy policy agenda carries down the ticket. His running mate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), was the first co-sponsor Sanders’s Medicare for All legislation, but by late 2019 she was telling donors that she was not comfortable with that specific plan. Then, after a primary debate in 2020, Harris explained, “In my vision of Medicare for All, it includes private insurance where people can have supplemental insurance.”

With Harris also declining to answer questions on support for court-packing, it would appear that significant parts of the Biden-Harris agenda is another “vote on it, to find out what’s in it” package. At best guess, their health care policy platform is a blend of all things to all people as long as it maintains the ACA label. That likely means more government intrusion into average people’s health care, greater rationing, and less access. At worse, their health care plan is a repackaged Sanders plan with Obamacare wrapping paper.

The foundational principles of a patient-focused health care system are not fully endorsed by either candidate. Both President Donald Trump and Biden support drug price controls. But while Trump has endorsed the principles of reduced government interference, and acted on those principles throughout the COVID-19 crisis to fast-track testing and creation of a vaccine, Biden has dodged instead of making clear what voters will get in 2021.

Dr. Chad Savage founded YourChoice Direct Care to practice primary care with a clear focus on the patient and their health through the Direct Primary Care model.

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