Health care is likely to be a big issue during the 2020 presidential campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden today waded into this debate, unveiling his plan to reshape America’s health care sector. But his ideas are drawing a sharp distinction between him and more liberal members of his party.
Under Biden’s plan, the federal government would operate a health care program where any American could buy into. This resurrects the “public option” program that was initially part of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. President Obama pushed for this type of government buy-in, but members of Congress thought that it was too problematic. It did not make it into the final version of Obamacare.
This public option stands in stark contrast to an idea that is increasingly popular with progressive Democratic politicians: a single-payer system, where private insurance is outlawed and the government runs the health care sector. Sen. Bernie Sanders has championed this most actively, but this idea has also gained ground with other candidates for president.
Biden points out that single-payer, also called Medicare for All, involves ending Obamacare. Biden said he is proud of that law and wants to build on it, not repeal it. He also notes that many people like their private insurance, so outlawing that would be a major disruption for millions of Americans.
Under the Biden plan, there would also be expanded subsidies for insurance purchases as well as allowing more people to access Medicaid. Biden also wants to provide more funding to Planned Parenthood. He would pay for these ideas with a new tax on investment income earned by taxpayers with higher incomes.
Whether it is a public option or single-payer, any such system must be approved by Congress. If Republicans maintain control of either chamber after the 2020 election, either idea seems unlikely. In fact, it is unclear how much support either idea has among Democratic members of Congress.
Do you support a government health care program that allows people to buy into it but still allows private insurance? Should there be a single-payer system where there is no private insurance? Or should there be some other health care reform?