Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a healthcare proposal Monday that cast the “Medicare for all” approach of others running for the nomination as “starting from scratch” and an attack on the signature achievement of his former boss.
The former vice president, who told President Barack Obama when he signed the healthcare law that it was a “big f—ing deal,” unveiled a plan to expand Obamacare and keep private health insurers in the game, while aiming to make coverage less costly to patients.
“I believe we have to protect and build on Obamacare,” Biden said in a video alongside the plan.
Biden’s plan stands in contrast to that of some of the other presidential candidates who prefer to undo the private health insurance system in favor of a single, government-run plan. That proposal, detailed in the Medicare for All Act introduced by Bernie Sanders, also has the support of Democratic presidential hopefuls Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand.
“Folks supporting [Medicare for all] should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare, and I’m not for that,” Biden said in his video, adding later: “I’m surprised so many Democrats are running on getting rid of it.”
By taking such a stance, Biden is mirroring comments made by President Trump. Though the president has worked to undo Obamacare through rulemaking, efforts in Congress, and through the courts, he has cast the “Medicare for all” support as a tacit acknowledgment by Democrats that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced.
If elected president, Biden would sign a bill into law that would allow people the option to forgo private health insurance in favor of a government plan similar to Medicare. The option would be available to people who buy their own coverage, who are uninsured, or who are on employer plans. People who are living in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under Obamacare could get the government plan without paying premiums.
The House version of Obamacare originally had a public option but it was thrown out in Senate committee.
Biden’s plan also would give more people federal tax credits that would lower what they personally pay in premiums. The tax credits under current law don’t extend to roughly 6 million people who have an Obamacare plan. Biden’s idea would cap what people pay in premiums to 8.5% of their income, with the government picking up the rest of the tab.
This portion of Biden’s plan, which injects more federal dollars into private health insurance, is likely to have broad support from medical industry groups. But introducing a government plan, known as a “public option,” is widely rejected by the industry, who does not want to see people currently receiving private coverage moved onto lower, government rates that would result in them getting lower reimbursement.