Photo Credit: by The National Guard, flickr.com
Election seasons are always chaotic and high-stress, but this year probably takes the cake: with a pandemic raging and more political divisiveness than ever, the upcoming 2020 election is a hot topic that’s only going to get hotter in the coming weeks. While enduring the “new normal” and all the life disruptions that have come with the COVID-19 pandemic, many are wondering what to expect in the health care industry after the 2020 election.
Now more than ever, people are thinking about how their candidate of choice will alter the way they live their lives, both throughout the duration of the pandemic and when we finally arrive to the “after” we are all looking forward to so expectantly.
So where do the candidates stand on matters of health that will affect the care and keeping of all Americans? In this article, we dive in and take a close look at how the next person elected to office could change health care forever.
Consider this your guide to the upcoming presidential election as it pertains to health care.
How your vote could affect health care
A vote is the main way for a citizen to exercise his or her voice and to make their stance known. Each candidate not only represents a political philosophy, but also promises to make specific changes and modifications to daily life and the way the country is run. A presidential candidate’s campaign takes a stance on categories across the board, but many Americans are curious to know what the president-elect plans to do when it comes to something very personal: their health.
Maybe you’re concerned about whether saving on prescriptions will become easier or more difficult after the next election, or maybe your main focus is universal health care coverage or Medicaid. Many are concerned about America’s rising drug prices and hope that the next president will work to legalize more affordable alternatives from other countries and sources. (Some propose that online Canadian pharmacies may be the solution, and we’d have to agree!)
An article in DrugWatch states, “About 68 percent of all voters ranked health care as ‘very important’ to their vote in the 2020 election, according to a 2020 poll by the Pew Research Center. The candidates have different plans for providing health care coverage but agree on points such as health care tax credits, affordability and greater flexibility and choice.”
No matter your main concern with the upcoming election and the presidential candidates you can choose between, the important part to know is that your vote matters. Make your voice count by exercising your right to vote and choosing the candidate who best represents your values.
President Trump’s efforts to lower drug prices in advance of the 2020 election
Now more than ever before, health care is one of the hot topics and central issues of the upcoming presidential election. For President Trump, efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs is a main focus of his campaign for re-election. Lowering drug prices for all Americans is an effort he’s counting on to win the vote for re-election so that he can serve a second term.
He has some track record to back up his plans: according to his campaign website, “Under President Trump, the FDA has approved the largest number of generic drugs in history. Generics increase competition in the marketplace and lower the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans. In December 2018, year-end drug prices fell for the first time in nearly 50 years.”
But he’s not stopping there. According to Employee Benefit Adviser, “In July, President Donald Trump signed four executive orders designed to ‘reduce the costs of prescription drugs.’ These orders mark the administration’s latest effort to follow through on one of Trump’s primary 2016 campaign promises: to take on drug manufacturers and lower prescription drug prices for consumers. The new executive orders represent various drug pricing proposals announced previously during Trump’s presidency that had failed to be enacted.” They argue that Trump plans to lower prescription drug prices before the 2020 election.
The first of the orders focuses on safe drug importation from foreign countries, which is based on a plan that the HHS and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) originally released in December 2019. The next relates to drug discounts under the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which is specifically the life-saving drugs in charge of diabetes and allergies.
According to EBA, “Under 340B, drug manufacturers are required to provide discounted drugs to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) that serve underinsured and uninsured patient populations, many of which live in rural areas. The new executive order directs FQHCs to pass the 340B pricing discounts they receive for insulin and injectable epinephrine directly to their low-income patients.”
The third executive order President Trump signed targets drug rebates, intending that discounts would be applied at the point of sale (and therefore passed directly to the consumer) rather than to the big insurance companies. The fourth could enact other countries’ government-set drug price limits in the U.S. by requiring drug companies to sell certain high-cost drugs in America for the lowest price they offer in other countries.
In summary, these four executive orders that President Trump signed ahead of the 2020 election are intended to help patients stop overpaying for prescriptions and to make health care more affordable for all, but without enacting the universal health care system that other countries have.
However, The New York Times points out that no one has actually read the order yet: “President Trump has made his executive order tying prescription drug prices in the United States to the prices paid in Europe and other developed nations — and the ensuing war that has broken out with the pharmaceutical industry — a centerpiece of his campaign for re-election. The problem: No such executive order has been released.”
Regardless, drug prices are a major matter of discussion in the 2020 election, no matter which side you’re on. Everyone wants comprehensive health care that gives them peace of mind and doesn’t break the bank -- where we differ is how we plan to go about acquiring it.
The election and pre-existing conditions
What to do about pre-existing conditions is another hot topic of discussion when it comes to the upcoming election and the candidates’ stances on health care. However, this is somewhere that both parties seem to have common ground. Both Trump and Biden have promised to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions.
They also share the view that American should have more and better access to generic medicinal equivalents and be able to purchase drugs from other countries where the same medication is available for a less expensive price. As such, both candidates claim that they plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs -- even though, again, how they plan to accomplish this differs.
How Biden plans to lower drug prices
We’ve already discussed how Trump plans to lower the cost of health care; he recently signed four executive orders that aggressively pursue this goal, something he has promised to do since he first ran for president in 2016.
But what does Biden plan to do to lower the cost of health care by lowering drug prices? Under the Biden Plan, the cost of health care will supposedly be reduced by repealing laws that prevent Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices with drug companies, setting reasonable prices for new drugs, prohibiting certain companies with high generic drug prices from raising their prices more (and hitting them with tax penalties), improving the supply chain of generic drugs, eliminating breaks for drug company advertising, and paving the way for people to buy safe prescription medications from other companies (as Trump also plans to do).
Why are drug prices so high, anyway? AARP explains it this way: “The simple reason why prescription drugs are so expensive is that pharmaceutical companies are free to price gouge taxpayers. Unlike many other countries, the United States allows drugmakers to set their own prices with virtually no accountability or transparency.”
That’s why the actions of the next president are so important. He may put a stop to this or create other ways to make prescription drugs more affordable to the millions of Americans who rely on them. American wants to both protect freedoms and free-market capitalism, and protect the health of its citizens. It’s a delicate balancing act, to say the least.
What about ObamaCare?
The winner of the 2020 election may also have a huge impact on the health care system in another way: by overturning or keeping ObamaCare in place. President Trump, of course, stands against ObamaCare, while Joe Biden wants to keep the system in place and build on it.
Joe Biden’s campaign website states, “As president, Biden will protect the Affordable Care Act from these continued attacks. He opposes every effort to get rid of this historic law – including efforts by Republicans, and efforts by Democrats. Instead of starting from scratch and getting rid of private insurance, he has a plan to build on the Affordable Care Act by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, and making our health care system less complex to navigate.”
The website also explains exactly why Biden is in favor of keeping and building upon ObamaCare. “Because of Obamacare, over 100 million people no longer have to worry that an insurance company will deny coverage or charge higher premiums just because they have a pre-existing condition – whether cancer or diabetes or heart disease or a mental health challenge. Insurance companies can no longer set annual or lifetime limits on coverage. Roughly 20 million additional Americans obtained the peace of mind that comes with health insurance. Young people who are in transition from school to a job have the option to stay covered by their parents’ plan until age 26.”
Since the plan passed, Republicans have been trying to repeal it in Congress, an effort Trump is continuing throughout his presidency and campaign for re-election. That’s because, in contrast to Biden, Trump has a very different stance on the Affordable Care Act enacted under President Obama. According to The Hill, “The administration is actively pursuing a lawsuit at the Supreme Court to completely overturn ObamaCare, which would result in more than 20 million people losing health insurance. Trump has no replacement plan if his lawsuit is successful.”
Depending on who is elected, Americans could see major change to their health care coverage -- or they may see no change at all. Only time will tell who gets elected and what exactly they change or keep in place. What will happen to ObamaCare? That depends mainly on who gets elected this November.
What about a COVID-19 vaccine?
Of course, all of us want to know when the pandemic will end and we can go back to our “old normal,” if that’s even still possible. So where do the candidates stand on getting through the pandemic and figuring out a vaccine -- and what life will look like once we have one?
According to Vox, “Most people are rooting for the US drug industry … to develop a vaccine or a cure for the disease that has taken more than 160,000 American lives. But the hope is tempered by an unavoidable fear in the country with the world’s highest medical prices: Will it be affordable?”
The article continues, “According to new polling from Data for Progress and Be a Hero … voters in some of 2020’s most important battleground states fall decisively on one side of that debate. They say they are ready for a more aggressive policy agenda to, in the near term, make Covid-19 vaccines and treatments free, and, in the long term, restructure the US pharmaceutical drug industry to lower prices. … A strong majority, over 70 percent, said they would prefer a candidate who supports making Covid-19 treatments and vaccines free to everybody.”
This is important to note, because while everyone wants a vaccine that will allow the pandemic to end, few people are considering the cost. Will it be free to all? Will it be only for the elite few? Will it be required? How will this work? The answers to those questions may depend on who is in office.
The poll cited by Vox suggests that voters are more likely to support a candidate who will reform the health care system and stop allowing Big Pharma to form monopolies and exploit those who rely on prescription drugs. Some wonder whether we will see a vaccine released in time for the election, and what that would mean, especially since this would see us releasing a vaccine in an emergency scenario that accelerates the normal pathway, potentially to the detriment of those who get the vaccine. At this juncture, however, it doesn’t look likely.
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