President Joe Biden has introduced a $2 trillion plan to invest and rebuild crumbling US infrastructure during a period of instability for millions. However, missing from the plan is a key campaign promise: dramatic health care reform.
Although the key focus of the American Jobs Plan is traditional infrastructure—transport, housing, hospitals and energy systems—Biden did address the country’s care infrastructure to a degree. He called for support in home and child care, and for other investments in medical care, including putting $30 billion over four years into creating jobs and investing in medical manufacturing; research and development focused on pandemics; and looking at bolstering production of “onshore active pharmaceutical ingredients.”
But despite his rhetoric about health care reform on the campaign trail—offering substantial change while falling far short of the “Medicare for All” stance of candidates to his left—his plan omits key promises: creating a public health insurance option, lowering Medicare eligibility to 60, further expanding Medicare and allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies.
This flies against direct requests from lawmakers, with several Senators and 80 House Representatives asking Biden in an April 26 letter to include his campaign promises as part of the package. “By prioritizing the inclusion of robust drug-pricing provisions, we can produce enormous federal savings and use it to sustainably expand health coverage, equity and access,” they wrote.
The health care reforms left out of Biden’s plan are overwhelmingly supported across party lines.
Studies show that millions of Americans are now suffering from billions in outrageous medical debt—including 2.5 million people entering collections for medical debt since the pandemic started.
Health care reforms that would alleviate this crisis, left out of Biden’s plan, are overwhelmingly supported by the general population, even across party lines.
In his first speech to a joint session of Congress, Biden briefly called on lawmakers to take action to lower premiums in the Affordable Care Act by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, which he said would save hundreds of billions of dollars. “That won’t just help people on Medicare,” he said, “it will lower prescription drug costs for everyone.”
“We all know how outrageously expensive drugs are in America. In fact, we pay the highest drug prices of anywhere in the world right here in America,” Biden continued. “Nearly three times for the same drug, nearly three times what other countries pay. We can change that.”
But actual legislation to address this has yet to be introduced. There is a chance that lawmakers will attempt to add some of these measures to Biden’s plan as it makes its way through Congress. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer remarked that bolder policies were needed, and that he supported Medicare negotiating with drug companies, expanding Medicare, reducing Medicare eligibility or a public option.
“We’re going to push it,” Schumer told the Hill. “It’s too early. I want to pass the biggest, boldest bill that, of course, we can pass. And we’ve got to figure all that out. We’re going to try to fight hard to try to get these in the bill.”
Photograph via US Department of Defense