By Lucie Abele PO ’22
As of December 2019, health care is among the political issues that matter most to voters and grows increasingly relevant as prescription drug costs rise and the population ages. The health care policies of each of six potential presidential candidates, selected from the frontrunners of the Republican and Democratic parties, are discussed. For the Republican party, President Donald Trump is considered the only major candidate as his current approval ratings from Republican voters are eighty-nine percent. For the Democratic party, the race is much closer, and the policies of the five candidates who polled the highest as of January 2020 (Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar) are presented.
Donald Trump’s health care policy over the past four years has largely involved reversing aspects of Obamacare. Promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act (A.C.A.) in 2016, but unable to fully repeal the Act during his time in office, Trump has reduced some of Obamacare’s provisions and additionally has rolled back many other Obama-era regulations. If he is reelected, Trump will likely continue to scale back on health care policies that were created during the Obama administration.
As part of the administration that created Obamacare, Joe Biden intends to protect and build on the A.C.A.. He plans to stop President Trump’s reversal of many of the implementations and provisions of the A.C.A., and will take further actions to restore and expand the Obamacare that was instituted during his time as Vice President. This will include restoring the 39.6% rate on wealthy Americans (those making over one million dollars) to help fund the expansion of his health care program.
Elizabeth Warren is staunch supporter of Medicare for All: a policy that ostensibly would provide all Americans with a public health care program. Warren explicates that this act will be funded by reduced administrative spending, a cut defense budget, taxes on large corporations, a tax on the wealthiest one percent of Americans, and minimized tax evasion and fraud. Warren also advocates the implementation of several other health care acts, including the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act, the C.A.R.E. Act, and a new mental health plan. She additionally plans to lower the cost of prescription drugs, fight the opioid crisis, and restore health care competition by taking on large pharmaceutical companies.
Bernie Sanders is the champion advocate of Medicare for Allas a “single-payer, national health insurance program to provide everyone in America with comprehensive health care coverage, free at the point of service.” Sanders wants to see Medicare coverage expanded, and furthermore plans to institute various health care acts that aim to reduce prescription drug prices such as the Medicare Drug Price Negotiation Act, in which Medicare will negotiate with large drug companies, the Affordable and Safe Prescription Drug Importation Act, and the Prescription Drug Relief Act. Sanders plans to fund these changes with a more progressive and extreme personal income tax that will increase rates on the wealthy. Furthermore, Sanders’ tax used to finance his Medicare for All program will fall partly on the middle class, whereas Warren claims zero tax increases on the middle class. Additionally, some research shows that the expected expenditures of Medicare for All are underestimated,
Pete Buttigieg advocates a more moderate health care plan than Warren and Sanders, calling for “Medicare for All who Want it,” which will allow Americans to opt for a public alternative, appealing to “more than half of nonelderly adults” who “prefer a public option,” according to research. Buttigieg argues that an affordable public plan will incentivize private insurers to compete on price and lower their costs. Expecting his “Medicare for All who Want It” plan to cost about $1.5 trillion over ten years, Buttigieg’s funds will come from reversing the Trump corporate tax cuts. Additional tenets of Buttigieg’s health care aims include lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increasing equity of health care, protecting and expanding access to health care for women, driving innovation, improving mental health, and combatting addiction.
Amy Klobuchar’s health care policies involve building on Obamacare by creating a public insurance option. Noting that she supports a public health care system but voicing concerns over the plausibility of passing Medicare for All through Congress, Klobuchar heads a unique approach. Klobuchar plans to strengthen Medicaid through Senator Brian Schatz’s Medicaid Buy-in Bill, which she co-sponsored. This bill will allow states to create public health insurance plans through Medicaid. Klobuchar additionally hopes to see changes to the current A.C.A. in order to help bring down health care costs to consumers. She furthermore focuses on the improvement of addiction and mental health services, reproductive rights, prescription drugs, and health policies for seniors.