Written by Hansa Doppalapudi
With United States citizens on the cusp of experiencing a drastic change as the power of president transfers to President Joseph R. Biden, the most pressing issue of the 2020 election still remains:
What is the new president’s plan for healthcare?
As promised, President Biden has spent his first few weeks in office signing executive orders to implement his ideas–on his first day in office alone, he signed more executive orders than all three of his predecessors combined did in their first few weeks. Owing to the most pressing task at hand–the pandemic–the President’s focus in many of these executive orders is improving our current healthcare situation.
Despite former President Trump spending a significant time attempting to repeal the entirety of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or commonly known as Obamacare), Republicans’ efforts in the Senate in 2017 were only able to remove individual mandate, a requirement for all legal US residents to have health insurance in some form. More recently, in the summer of 2020, the Trump administration stated again that “the entire ACA must fall” to the Supreme Court . This statement, however, came at a time when almost half a million Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic turned to the ACA’s special enrollment period for their healthcare coverage–an increase of almost 50% from the previous year’s enrollment according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In response to this, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi issued a statement saying that President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to “rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty.”
President Biden’s plan, however, is to reinstate the individual mandate and expand on the Affordable Care Act. Despite not supporting Medicare for All, he proposed a “Medicare-like” public option with a less expensive private insurance option for those who prefer it. Here are the details for the rest of his plan for various health issues, including some executive orders he has already signed.
Strengthening Medicare and the ACA. Biden has said he would lower the age of eligibility for Medicare to 60, and maybe even 55 from where it currently stands at 65. He may have support for this from Republicans who have seen the older population deal with COVID-19. Additionally, Biden has signed an executive order promising a review of current healthcare policies that undermine the ACA dealing and deal with those with pre-existing conditions. These will likely result in the general expansion of health coverage, as the executive order cited that “Over 30 million Americans remain uninsured, preventing many from obtaining necessary health services and treatment.” The administration plans on establishing a Special Enrollment Period for Medicare.
Dealing with tax credit. Income Tax Credit can be used to lower your monthly insurance premium–if your estimated income falls between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level for your household size, you qualify for a premium tax credit. To expand those who are helped by premium tax credits, Biden plans on eliminating the 400% income cap, thereby increasing the amount of people who have access to more affordable healthcare.
Expanding reproductive healthcare. Biden released a memorandum that directed the Department of Health and Human services to reevaluate the regulations of Title X under the Trump administration, which limited federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Additionally, he revoked the “Mexico City Policy,” which blocks U.S. federal funding for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provide any kind of abortion services.
Lowering prescription drug pricing. Currently, the non-interference clause essentially prevents the government from interfering in negotiations between insurers, drug manufacturers, and farmers. Biden plans to repeal this clause to lower the prices of prescription drugs. Additionally, he endorses the End Taxpayer Subsidies for Drug Ads Act, which will remove the tax breaks that drug manufacturers receive from advertising. Currently, the U.S. is one of two countries that allows direct advertising of prescription drugs. Ideally, this act will reduce advertising and decrease demand for certain prescription drugs, and will lower their costs.
Supporting undocumented immigrants. Under Biden’s expansion of the Affordable Care Act, undocumented immigrants would have the choice of buying into the public option for health insurance, but it would not be subsidized. This is one of the many examples of Biden’s plan to expand coverage while still working under the ACA.
Increasing support for victims of domestic violence. Since the increased stay-at-home measures caused by the pandemic last year, there has been a drastic decrease in most crime rates. Domestic violence, however, was exacerbated by the pandemic. Moreover, teachers and social workers can no longer identify children who may be going through abuse due to the shutting down of schools and daycares. Hopkins Medicine reported that the rate of murder-suicide, where a partner kills their significant other and then commits suicide, have increased. In an attempt to combat this issue, the Biden administration has proposed $800 million to fund “key federal programs that protect survivors.”
Funding mental health. In addition to an increase in domestic violence, we have seen a worldwide surge in suicide rates and mental health issues. According to the CDC, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health issues and/or substance use problems. Biden is calling on Congress to appropriate $4 billion to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration to “expand access to these vital services.”
In addition to these changes, over the next few months, the Biden administration plans on implementing a series of changes to the way the United States has been handling the coronavirus, which remains the most urgent issue as vaccine rollout continues. Meanwhile, these other changes in healthcare will be implemented to expand the reach of our current healthcare system to help those struck hardest by the pandemic, and hopefully in a way that l00ks to the future to prevent and mitigate future health crises.
Edited by Ananya Kodali