Healthcare, COVID response to take center stage in Biden-Harris administration

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks while delivering an address to the nation during an election event in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020.
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Employers can expect healthcare and a new approach to the COVID-19 crisis to take center stage when President-elect Joe Biden, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, take the helm next year.

Throughout his campaign, Biden indicated healthcare reform would be a top priority if elected to the presidency. In a year where more than 239,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the future administration’s plans to rely on science and healthcare experts appears to be a welcome change. Both employer and insurance groups say they intend to work closely with the new administration’s goals to shake up the healthcare industry.

“Healthcare will be front and center for the Biden/Harris administration,” says Michael Thompson, president and CEO, National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. “Efforts to address the public option, surprise billing and drug costs will need to be navigated through a split Congress and the views and support of employers will be critical. We also expect that addressing health disparities which have been exacerbated during the pandemic will become a key priority moving forward.”

During Saturday’s victory speech, Biden said he and Harris will assemble a team of scientists and healthcare experts to guide their COVID policies once they take office on Jan. 21. But in regards to healthcare in general, the “Biden Plan” will essentially support and build on the Affordable Care Act Biden helped enact into law with former President Barack Obama — assuming the now conservative-majority Supreme Court doesn’t take the opportunity to appeal the law, which went into effect in March 2010.

Regardless of a potential court case, Biden says he intends to offer a public health insurance option that uses Medicare as a guideline for pricing — a plan he says will not drive out private insurance. America’s Health Insurance Plans, a group representing private insurance companies in the U.S., indicated a desire to work with the administration to help facilitate positive healthcare reform.

“We look forward to working with the new administration to deliver a competitive system that leverages private sector innovation to improve on what is working, so that everyone has access to affordable coverage and high-quality care,” Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement.

Biden also plans to lower drug costs by making the pharmacy industry negotiate with Medicare on prices. He may also increase the value of tax credits to lower healthcare premiums. Both goals appear to have the support of America’s Health Insurance Plans.

“There are many healthcare challenges that our nation must face together — from continuing to battle the COVID-19 crisis, to making healthcare and prescription drugs more affordable, to protecting patients from surprise medical bills, to ensuring stable coverage markets for those who need it most,” Eyles said. “We look forward to working with the president-elect and his administration, as well as all members of Congress and state leaders, for more affordable, comprehensive coverage choices; greater health equity; and improved solutions that improve the health and well-being of every American,” Eyles said.

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Healthcare reform Kamala Harris Joe Biden Coronavirus