Joe Biden Plans to Heal America’s Broken Healthcare SystemJanuary 20, 2021
During the U.S. presidential election 2020, only Joe Biden has a clear idea that he has a tough way ahead on winning. With the highest number of Covid deaths in the country, a broken healthcare system, and several unhelpful regulations implemented by his predecessor, he knew he has a task ahead to fix things. Joe Biden right from the days of the campaign had clear goals, he needs to simplify the complex healthcare system of the country, expand health insurance access, reduce prescription drug costs, and expand abortion access. Right after taking the oath of office on 20 January, he has many challenges ahead, right from dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic buffeting the nation and he needs to reverse insubstantial health coverage protection along with the prevention measures.
The one unexpected thing that Biden has on his side is the control of the US Senate that the Democrats won in a close-fought election. Now his party has complete control of the White House, Senate, as well as House of Representatives, and he has the authority to get some of his agenda approved. Some legislation requires a super majority but with the slim Democratic majorities in the House as well as Senate, and some Democrats having a soft corner for the conservative side, getting approved all his agenda will be tough for Biden.
The two ambitious plans of the Biden, allowing government-run health insurance plans to compete against ACA-compliant private health plans and to lower the eligibility age for Medicare. Medicare is the government insurance program for people age 65 and older. Biden has free rein to choose people for top posts without compromising with the Republicans due to the Senate majority. He is even eligible to make changes in the Affordable Care Act to nullify the Supreme Court decision that is pending, as there is a threat to the existence of the ACA. Besides, there are several other health-related policy changes that he can make without the approval of the Senate.
First Joe Biden needs to confront Covid-19 and needs to pro-actively take action on the pandemic. Noted scientist Anthony Fauci, who is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has continuously briefed the newly elected president on the pandemic. He has come up with a scientific advisory board to provide him regular updates on vaccination planning. Though the staffs of the advisory board were not satisfied with Trump’s officials, who were slow in providing data.
Biden has already announced that for his first 100 days in office he will request all Americans to wear masks, though he has limited authority over mask-wearing because responsibility for public health measures lies with the states. States have the authority to mandate mask-wearing and this mandate varies across the country. Though, he has urged both local and state governments to have their own mandates and asked them to make mask-wearing necessary on federal property and on interstate transport. His administration will also need to handle the uneven rollout of the vaccines, as the Trump administration left rolling out of the vaccines to individual states. Though states are receiving free vaccines but getting very little funding for distribution.
Biden has set a target of 100 million vaccinations in his initial hundred days and is quite serious in achieving it and delivering on it. He also stated that he will encourage to quickly administer the first doses as made and distributed rather than holding vaccine stocks for people’s second doses. Biden well understands the significance of vaccination and know things would go worse before getting better if he doesn’t speed up the federal vaccination efforts. He will ask Congress for another $20bn to speed up this effort by naming it as “Operation Warp Speed,” and he also looks to extend insurance subsidies to the middle class.
Reversal of Trump’s Rule
Trump administration in 2017 announced the revival of the “Mexico City plan,” also known as the global gag rule. This plan blocks family planning clinics from receiving federal funding if they provide abortion or counseling on abortion. This rule was first implemented by Ronald Reagan in 1984 and since then has been a pivot in the seesaw game. Democratic presidents canceling this rule and Republicans reinstitute it on taking office. The harshest ban was implemented by the Trump administration who just not banned family planning funding to a clinic that even mentioned abortion to its patients but also the funds allocated for HIV, malaria, and other infectious diseases. This policy severely affected poor countries by reducing their access to family planning services. Biden has promised to once again cancel this rule.
Strengthening of the Affordable Care Act is another promise made by Biden, as Trump vowed to repeal and replace this act. Trump throughout his presidency promised a new and better health plan but never introduced one, instead, he weakens this act in several ways like reducing funding for public information about the insurance programs. This led to people purchasing health insurance plans that didn’t offer comprehensive benefits covered under ACA-complaint plans and also allowed plans to be sold that don’t provide coverage to pre-existing conditions.
Correction of Trump’s Fallacious Decisions
Trump administration announced in July 2020 that the U.S. will be pulled out of the World Health Organization leading to the nation stepping back from global health leadership. This process takes a year and so Biden on his very first day in office has promised to pull out Trump’s decision. Biden has also assured to bring back a high profile job in which a person is appointed for global health security and biodefense that was earlier eliminated by Trump.
Health adviser of the Democratic administrations, Chris Jennings told Kaiser Health News that some of the worrisome rules of the Trump administration need to be effectively handled. One of his rules is a cause of concern for the scientific community under which he prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from considering the effect of studies on pollution and other environmental issues, as the raw data were not made available. Since most of the relevant research is based on confidential patient information, the privacy requirement would mean many conclusive studies would be limited.
Another finalized rule of Trump requires the agency to dismiss the illnesses and deaths economic costs when summing up the entire cost of air pollution. This leads to climate change. Trump with his “America First” policy withdrew the US from the Paris Agreement in his early official days, and this withdrawal was finalized on 4 November, the day after the presidential election voting closed. However, Biden has promised to rejoin it.
Fixing the U.S. Healthcare
Trump during his tenure has continuously ignored advice from the Department of Health and Human Services that runs the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, drug treatment agencies, and several government health insurance programs. Biden needs to find ways to get things moving again by encouraging people who have spent their careers in making good federal programs that will benefit the common people. Even the HHS will have to come up with new programs, strengthen earlier programs, and need to reverse changes made by Trump. Recently in January 2021, Tennessee state was allowed by the Trump administration to change the Medicaid financing that gave the state more power on using the federal funds but at the same time, a cap was put on the total funding that was not at all required.
The head of Medicaid was also pressurizing states to sign contracts that would make it difficult to change any special deals that they have made with the Trump government, thereby making it difficult for Tennessee to cancel the proposal approved by the Trump administration. Before the end of his presidency, Trump signed legislation to eliminate surprise billing as of 2022. Under this when a person’s visit to a hospital is covered under the plan but the anesthesiologist or the surgeon suggested treatment may not be covered under the plan. In the U.S. patients generally receive tens of thousands of dollars as surgery bills that would have entailed only a small copayment amount if the doctor had been in the plan. Biden now needs to come out with the few health laws that will eventually prove beneficial for the patients.