As a system that values profit over the well-being of its people, the United States’ healthcare industrial complex was failing long before the coronavirus shed a harsh light on its underbelly. If anything, the pandemic has only underscored our need for radical change. As the likelihood of a Joe Biden presidency rises with the ongoing pandemic proving to be the “new normal,” the country looks desperately toward a plan to address this crisis. However, the proposed Bidencare plan predictably misses the mark in these dire times.
Under President Obama, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was introduced to the public in 2010 as a way to ensure citizens had access to affordable healthcare coverage. Yet the plan failed to restrict insurance or hospital costs and has coincided with a steady price increase in employer based coverage. While 157 million Americans get their healthcare coverage from an employer, that coverage isn’t necessarily economical. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that over the last decade healthcare costs incurred by families covered by large employers, including premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, has increased by 67% from $4,617 to $7,726. Over that same time period, average health costs for premiums paid by workers for family coverage increased 51% from $10,008 to $15,159. According to the study, as these costs steadily climb at an alarming rate, workers’ earnings have only increased by 26%. Under Biden’s plan, workers who make under $25,000 annually, about 19 million people, would see significant savings to the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket expenses by switching to the proposed public option. While a considerable amount of coverage, Bidencare still leaves the other 136 million U.S. households stuck with increasingly higher employer-based plans.
As COVID-19 continues to ravage the richest country in the world, leaving catastrophic unemployment rates — and therefore, uninsured rates — in its wake, the Biden task force addresses this crisis with a plan only to expand ACA with vague language and false promises. The former Vice President’s website claims that all U.S residents will have access to a “new and more affordable” public option that will be negotiated with healthcare providers to create competition within the market. However, Biden has been funded by these same pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, which clearly have their own profit interests in mind, since the beginning of his career. His campaign chairman, Steve Richetti, is a former lobbyist for pharma giants Eli Lilly and Sanofi, who are currently involved in a class action lawsuit over the fixing of insulin prices. Billionaire and Kite Pharma board member David Bonderman maxed out his contributions to the campaign back in March. Biden’s healthcare industry backers do not support a nationally favored public healthcare option but rather aim to actively deny any sort of reform to the status quo. In fact, many initially supported Biden because they believed him to be the strongest opponent against Bernie’s Medicare for All plan.
Which then begs one to question, why would the healthcare industry support a public option instead? And the answer is, well, they do not. In 2010 those same corporate interests were the ones who shot down the public option when Joe Biden was Vice President. In the year 2009 alone, the industry pumped in around $600 million on public donations, lobbyists and advertisements against the idea of a public option. So any suggested change to the current system, even one as weak as a public option, will likely be met by highly funded organizations that have the monetary power to sway the decision-making on Capitol Hill. And now Joe Biden is too deep in big pharma’s pockets to offer any substantial change to our quickly collapsing system. Sure, Biden could reject corporate influence after taking their money, effectively dousing those industries, but that seems very unlikely. We’ve already seen this exact situation play out with President Obama, who promised radical change only to sell out to the same corporate interests that funded his election campaigns — and are now funding Biden’s.
The Covid-19 crisis has shattered societies around the globe. But no other Western country faces imminent threats to an already failing healthcare system. According to recent data from Axios, the true U.S. unemployment rate has reached 26.1%, meaning millions have also lost their health coverage. From the high costs of healthcare to the backlog of now unfrozen rent payments, protection under a pandemic has a ridiculously expensive price. Many people in the U.S. are quite literally struggling to survive. Now more than ever, we must uproot the current healthcare system and supply much-needed government assistance. President Trump has woefully failed to figure out a solution. But President Biden may come closer to finding one – if he puts the needs of our country’s people before the demands from his pockets.
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