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Health and Gender Policy

Brief # 90

Biden’s Health Policy Priorities

By Erin McNemar

January 12, 2021

Policy

In March of 2010 after a long fought battle between Democrats and Republicans, President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. The policy made instrumental changes to healthcare in the United States. According to Reuters, over 23 million people are now insured by Obamacare. Since that law passed, Congressional Republicans have continuously tried to repeal it.

During his campaign, President-elect Joe Biden presented his healthcare policy as an expansion of Obamacare. In this expansion, Biden’s plan highlights how he will increase coverage to insure 97 percent of Americans by giving individuals a public health insurance option similar to Medicare. By negotiating with providers, this new public option will be more affordable to those who struggle to pay health insurance costs.

Additionally, the plan calls for lowering prescription drug prices by limiting price increases for drug companies facing no competition, allowing Americans to purchase prescriptions from other countries and getting rid of pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break. The plan also says Biden will repeal laws that prevent Medicare from negotiating lower prescription prices with drug corporations.

Lastly, Biden’s plan implements the idea that healthcare is a human right. Focusing on women’s healthcare rights, Biden states that his plan will expand access to contraceptive, reduced maternal mortality rate, especially among women of color, and protect the constitutional right to an abortion. Biden has also said he supports striking down the Hyde Amendment and restoring federal funding to Planned Parenthood.

Overall, Biden’s plan aims to protect healthcare coverage for those who are covered and expand coverage for those who are not. By bringing down the costs, repealing laws that prevent negotiating and investing in community healthcare, Biden hopes to expand and protect the policies created by Obamacare.

Analysis

Going into his first term in office, Biden has something that Obama didn’t; a Democratic majority in congress. With the Democrats maintaining their lead in the House and the Senate being split 50/50, making Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie breaking vote, Democrats will should be able to move their bills through Congress and sign them into law with ease. While this works in theory, it doesn’t necessarily ring true.

With division among Democrats and Republicans, there is also division among members of the Democratic party itself. More progressive Democrats often criticize moderate Democrats for creating policies liberals believe do not go far enough to help people. This interparty division could prove to be a challenge for Biden in implementing his plans such as healthcare reform.

Additionally, history shows us that healthcare reform can be difficult even with a one party majority in Congress. During President Bill Clinton’s time in office, he attempted to pass major healthcare reform. With Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, this task shouldn’t have been terribly difficult. However, the bill was declared dead on September 26, 1994 by Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.

During the time of COVID-19, healthcare has become a pillar issue for many Americans. We will be watching carefully to see what kind of relief is provided for people in this country. While Biden’s plan to expand and protect Obamacare looks like it definitely has the potential to make it through Congress, we are going to have to see what kind of opposition it gets from Repuboicans as well as within his own party.

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