[OPINION] DECISIONS 2020 : Comparing Trump, Biden health care plans (Part 2)

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

HEALTH CARE, more than ever, especially in the age of the coronavirus pandemic, remains to be the among the top concerns of the American people as we head to the polls to vote.

In Part 1, I wrote about President Donald Trump’s “America First Health Care Plan,” which just laid out the three pillars of his “vision” without details on how he plans to overhaul the Affordable Care Act — a campaign promise he has yet to deliver.

Here is a summary of former Vice President Joe Biden’s detailed health care plan.

Compare and contrast this with Trump’s plan and make a decision on whom to trust for your family’s health care and safety.

The Biden plan to protect and build on the Affordable Care Act

Give every American access to affordable health insurance. As president, Biden will stop this reversal of the progress made by Obamacare. And he won’t stop there. He’ll also build on the Affordable Care Act with a plan to insure more than an estimated 97% of Americans. Here’s how:

• Giving Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare. If your insurance company isn’t doing right by you, you should have another, better choice. Whether you’re covered through your employer, buying your insurance on your own, or going without coverage altogether, the Biden Plan will give you the choice to purchase a public health insurance option like Medicare.

• As in Medicare, the Biden public option will reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other health care providers. It also will better coordinate among all of a patient’s doctors to improve the efficacy and quality of their care, and cover primary care without any co-payments. And it will bring relief to small businesses struggling to afford coverage for their employees.

• Increasing the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more working Americans. Today, families that make between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level may receive a tax credit to reduce how much they have to pay for health insurance on the individual marketplace. The dollar amount of the financial assistance is calculated to ensure each family does not have to pay more than a certain percentage of their income on a silver (medium generosity) plan.

Expanding coverage to low-income Americans. Access to affordable health insurance shouldn’t depend on your state’s politics. But today, state politics is getting in the way of coverage for millions of low-income Americans. Governors and state legislatures in 14 states have refused to take up the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility, denying access to Medicaid for an estimated 4.9 million adults.

Biden’s plan will ensure these individuals get covered by offering premium-free access to the public option for those 4.9 million individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid but for their state’s inaction, and making sure their public option covers the full scope of Medicaid benefits. States that have already expanded Medicaid will have the choice of moving the expansion population to the premium-free public option as long as the states continue to pay their current share of the cost of covering those individuals.

Provide the peace of mind of affordable, quality health care and a less complex health care system. The Biden plan will not only provide coverage for uninsured Americans, it will also make health care more affordable and less complex for all.

The plan’s elements described above will help reduce the cost of health insurance and health care for those already insured in the following ways:

• All Americans will have a new, more affordable option. The public option, like Medicare, will negotiate prices with providers, providing a more affordable option for many Americans who today find their health insurance too expensive.

• Middle-class families will get a premium tax credit to help them pay for coverage. For example, take a family of four with an income of $110,000 per year. If they currently get insurance on the individual marketplace, because their premium will now be capped at 8.5% of their income, under the Biden Plan they will save an estimated $750 per month on insurance alone. That’s cutting their premiums almost in half. If a family is covered by their employer but can get a better deal with the 8.5% premium cap, they can switch to a plan on the individual marketplace, too.

• Premium tax credits will be calculated to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles. Because the premium tax credits will now be calculated based on the price of a more generous gold plan, families will be able to purchase a plan with a lower deductible and lower out-of-pocket spending. That means many families will see their overall annual health care spending go down.

Stop “surprise billing.”  Consumers trying to lower their health care spending often try to choose an in-network provider. But sometimes patients are unaware they are receiving care from an out-of-network provider and a big, surprise bill. “Surprise medical billing” could occur, for example, if you go to an in-network hospital but don’t realize a specialist at that hospital is not part of your health plan. The Biden Plan will bar health care providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient doesn’t have control over which provider the patient sees (for example, during a hospitalization).

Tackle market concentration across our health care system. The concentration of market power in the hands of a few corporations is occurring throughout our health care system, and this lack of competition is driving up prices for consumers. The Biden Administration will aggressively use its existing antitrust authority to address this problem.

Lower costs and improve health outcomes by partnering with the health care workforce. The Biden Administration will partner with health care workers and accelerate the testing and deployment of innovative solutions that improve quality of care and increase wages for low-wage health care workers, like home care workers.

Stand up to abuse of power by prescription drug corporations. The Biden Plan will put a stop to runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry by:

• Repealing the outrageous exception allowing drug corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices. Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries. And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program, but not drug manufacturers.

• Repeal the existing law explicitly barring Medicare from negotiating lower prices with drug corporations.

• Limiting launch prices for drugs that face no competition and are being abusively priced by manufacturers.

• For these cases where new specialty drugs without competition are being launched, under the Biden Plan, the Secretary of Health and Human Services will establish an independent review board to assess their value.

As a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, all brand, biotech, and abusively priced generic drugs will be prohibited from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. The Biden plan will also impose a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of their brand, biotech, or abusively priced generic over the general inflation rate.

To create more competition for U.S. drug corporations, the Biden Plan will allow consumers to import prescription drugs from other countries, as long as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has certified that those drugs are safe.

Improving the supply of quality generics. The Biden Plan supports numerous proposals to accelerate the development of safe generics, such as Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal to make sure generic manufacturers have access to a sample.

Ensure health care is a right for all, not a privilege for just a few
Expanding access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion. The Affordable Care Act made historic progress by ensuring access to free preventive care, including contraception. The Biden Plan will build on that progress.

Reverse the Trump Administration and states’ all-out assault on women’s right to choose. As president, Biden will work to codify Roe v. Wade, and his Justice Department will do everything in its power to stop the rash of state laws that so blatantly violate the constitutional right to an abortion.

As president, Biden will reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers that refer for abortions or provide related information and reverse the Trump Administration’s rule preventing Planned Parenthood and certain other family planning programs from obtaining Title X funds.

Just as the Obama-Biden Administration did, President Biden will rescind the Mexico City Policy (also referred to as the global gag rule) that President Trump reinstated and expanded. This rule currently bars the U.S. federal government from supporting important global health efforts – including for malaria and HIV/AIDS – in developing countries simply because the organizations providing that aid also offer information on abortion services.

Defending health care protections for all, regardless of gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Before the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could increase premiums merely due to someone’s gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Further, insurance companies could increase premiums or deny coverage altogether due to someone’s HIV status.

Doubling America’s investment in community health centers. Community health centers provide primary, prenatal, and other important care to underserved populations. The Biden Plan will double the federal investment in these centers, expanding access to high quality health care for the populations that need it most.

Achieving mental health parity and expanding access to mental health care.  In the months ahead, Biden will put forward additional plans to tackle health challenges affecting specific communities, including access to health care in rural communities, gun violence, and opioid addiction.

Supporting health, not rewarding wealth

Biden believes in rewarding work, not just wealth – and investing in hard-working Americans’ health, not protecting the most privileged Americans’ wealth. Warren Buffett said it best when he stated that he should not pay a lower tax rate than his secretary.

The Biden Plan will make health care a right by getting rid of capital gains tax loopholes for the super wealthy. Today, the very wealthy pay a tax rate of just 20% on long-term capital gains. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the capital gains and dividends exclusion is the second largest tax expenditure in the entire tax code: $127 billion in fiscal year 2019 alone.

As president, Biden will roll back the Trump rate cut for the very wealthy and restore the 39.6% top rate he helped restore when he negotiated an end to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy in 2012. Biden’s capital gains reform will close the loopholes that allow the super wealthy to avoid taxes on capital gains altogether. The Biden plan will assure those making over $1 million will pay the top rate on capital gains, doubling the capital gains tax rate on the super wealthy.

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989 with ABS-CBN and is now serving the Filipino audience using different platforms, including digital broadcasting, and print, and is working on a new public service program for the community. You may contact her through email at gelrelos@icloud.com, or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos.

Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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