Joe Biden: My plan on health care

For the Monitor
Published: 12/29/2019 6:01:01 AM
Modified: 12/29/2019 6:00:49 AM

On a December day in 1972, I lost my first wife and our one-year-old daughter to a car accident; our two sons suffered severe injuries, and spent weeks recovering in the hospital. I sat with them through those long and harrowing days – and 43 years later, I sat once again with my son Beau as he battled bravely against a rare form of cancer.

Every family that has faced a medical emergency understands the churn of emotions it can bring. The disorientation. The heartache. The feeling that your life has been jolted off of its axis. Confronting these moments is difficult enough when your family has health insurance, as mine did. But far too many families have to carry an additional burden as they navigate their own crises – wondering how they’ll be able to afford the care their loved ones need.

I’ve thought about those families over and over throughout my life. They are the reason I fought as hard as I could alongside President Obama to make Obamacare a reality.

Obamacare protected more than 100 million people with preexisting conditions, and brought peace of mind to 20 million Americans who had been forced to face life without health insurance. We made it illegal for insurers to put caps on essential health benefits, and made it possible for young people to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.

In doing so, we declared as a nation that health care is more than just a luxury reserved for those who can afford it. It’s a right we all deserve – one that is central to our dignity, and to who we want to be as a country. That’s why I oppose every effort – by Republicans or Democrats – to undo the progress we made with Obamacare.

Today, though, there are still Americans who lie awake in bed at night and stare up at the ceiling, thinking: “What will I do if she gets breast cancer? What if he has a heart attack? We’ll lose everything.” And, as long as that’s true – as long as lives and plans and dreams are put on hold because of health care – our work isn’t done.

We cannot rest until every American can access quality, affordable care. This is deeply personal for me, and it’s why I’ve put forward a plan that will get us to universal coverage quickly and effectively.

Ultimately, our health care system will only succeed if it reflects our shared values. That’s why my plan starts by giving Americans a choice to either stick with their private plan or get covered by a Medicare-like public option – because you know better than anyone what works for your family.

That choice keeps insurers honest – if they raise your premiums, you’ll have another option that isn’t trying to make a profit. For the first time, insurers will have to compete for your business; they’ll have to innovate and offer more to stay viable, and that’s going to be good for all of us. And this approach doesn’t force a change on folks who are happy with their insurance – or who have given up other benefits in labor negotiations for better coverage.

My plan will lower premiums further by increasing Obamacare’s tax credits to ensure that no one – regardless of their medical circumstances – will ever spend more than 8.5 percent of their income on premiums, with even lower caps for low-income families. And we’ll reduce costs for everyone by making it cheaper to choose plans with lower deductibles and less out-of-pocket spending.

New Hampshire families can’t afford to wait for the complete, complex dismantling of our health insurance system – and the prolonged construction of a costly new one. At less than one thirtieth of the cost of Medicare-for-All, my plan will lower premiums, achieve universal coverage, and offer a Medicare-like plan to every American who wants one. It won’t be easy – the insurance companies are fiercely opposed to my plan, just as they were opposed to Obamacare. But time is precious for families facing the pain and anxiety of medical issues, and we can actually get this plan through Congress right away.

When you cast your vote on Feb. 11, I hope you’ll consider those families sitting in their loved ones’ hospital rooms – those neighbors who lie awake worrying about bills. And I hope that you’ll join me in bringing them some peace of mind as they face life’s most difficult moments. Together, we can build a health care system that reflects our values – and make life in America fairer and easier for all of us.

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