The presumptive Democratic contender promises that as president he will work to protect and build on the Affordable Care Act.
FLORIDA — With businesses closing for good or temporarily under state-imposed shutdowns, and millions losing their jobs as the coronavirus pandemic continues across the country, Americans have lost their health coverage at unprecedented rates.
In fact, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan group Families USA, an estimated 5.4 million people became uninsured between February and May because of job losses. To put that number in perspective: that’s nearly 40% higher than the number of people who lost their job-based coverage during the 2008 recession.
ACA a Life Saver
For those without access to workplace coverage and who may not have qualified for Medicare or Medicaid, the federally subsidized plans on the marketplace were often literally a life saver. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), they had to buy coverage in a prohibitively expensive market or forgo coverage entirely, putting their health at risk.
Yet in recent years, enrollment on HealthCare.gov has ticked down, due to what the Democrats call the Trump administration’s relentless “sabotage” of the marketplace.
Presumptive Democratic presidential contende Joe Biden has also blamed the Trump administration’s repeated attacks on the Affordable Care Act in a tweet, and promises that as president he will not only work to protect ACA, but will build on it.
Biden’s plan, which the former vice president announced in a campaign video, is much more ambitious than ACA. In fact, it has often been called “Affordable Care Act 2.0.” It includes:
- Expanding ACA so that 97% of Americans are insured. The central feature of this is the creation of a public option, which would be a government-run insurance plan available to anyone. This would cost an estimated $750 billion over 10 years, and will be paid for by reversing some of the Trump administration’s tax cuts and eliminating capital gains tax loopholes for the super rich.
- Introducing a public health insurance option, like Medicare, that will be available premium-free to people making below 138% of the federal poverty level, as well as to individuals in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. The 2.5 million people currently ineligible for either Medicaid or private insurance subsidies in those states would be automatically enrolled in Biden’s public option, at no cost to them or the states where they live.
- Eliminating the 400% of federal poverty level income cap for tax credit eligibility, and lowering employees’ maximum contribution for coverage. Under Biden’s plan, no one would be required to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income toward health insurance premiums.
- Prohibiting health care providers from “surprise billing” patients with out-of-network rates. A 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 70 percent of “individuals with unaffordable out-of-network medical bills did not know the health care provider was not in their plan’s network at the time they received care.”
- Combating the rising cost of drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug manufacturers.
- Lowering the Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60. “Even after the current crisis ends, older Americans are likely to find it difficult to secure jobs,” Biden said in a Medium post. The additional cost, he added, will be financed out of general revenues to protect the Medicare Trust Fund.
- Expanding funding for community health centers that serve patients regardless of their immigration status or their ability to pay.