Biden-Sanders task force health platform pushes for public option, a free COVID-19 vaccine

Joe Biden
Joe Biden's campaign released the results of its joint task forces with Bernie Sanders' backers. (SXSW)

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign released the platform shaped by a series of progressive task forces, which keep much of his existing healthcare proposals in place.

The task forces formed once rival Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race, with the goal of enticing his followers into supporting the Biden campaign. In the platform (PDF), the healthcare task force pushes for a public option, including a plan with no deductible.

Biden championed a public option throughout the primary, rather than a single-payer "Medicare for All" system backed by Sanders.

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"Democrats believe we need to protect, strengthen, and build upon our bedrock health care programs, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Affairs system," the task force members wrote. "Private insurers need real competition to ensure they have incentive to provide affordable, quality coverage to every American."

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The plan would be made available with no premium in states that have not expanded Medicaid, according to the proposal.

A public option plan is likely to see significant pushback from both health plans and providers should it move forward, and controversy around the idea saw one stripped from the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Analysts suggest that insurers on the ACA's exchanges would likely lower premiums to stay competitive if one were enacted.

Other policy proposals include:

  • Responding to COVID-19 by making testing more widely available and free. The platform also calls for eventual treatments and vaccines for the virus to come at no cost to the patient.
  • For those who lose their jobs due to the pandemic, the government should cover the cost of COBRA coverage while they're unemployed.
  • To continue monitoring the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Democrats pledge to recruit 100,000 contact tracers and stand up a system for public health agencies to track the virus.
  • The platform would set a cap to ensure patients spend no more than 8.5% of their income on premiums, and lift the cap on subsidies for ACA plans.
  • Medicare would be allowed to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers on pricing.
  • The platform would cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors.

The task force was co-chaired by Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, and former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D.

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