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April 8, 2020

With Sanders' exit, Joe Biden is now Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee. Here's where he stands on key health care issues.

Daily Briefing

    On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) withdrew from the race to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee, meaning former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Trump in this year's election.

    Here's where Biden stands on key health care issues:

    • Abortion rights: Biden generally supports abortion rights and has said he backs the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which guaranteed U.S. women's right to abortion care. However, Biden "has gone back and forth on abortion in the past and has publicly struggled to reconcile his political positions with his Catholic faith," the New York Times reports. Biden has voted against federal funding for abortion and supported the so-called "global gag rule" when former President Ronald Reagan enacted it, the Times reports. In addition, Biden in 1981 authored an amendment to prohibit federal "foreign aid for abortion-related biomedical research," according to the Times, and also formerly supported the so-called "Hyde Amendment." Biden in June said he no longer supports that amendment, however. Biden has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover contraceptives and funding Planned Parenthood.

    • Covid-19: Biden last month released a plan to combat the United States' coronavirus epidemic that calls for "a decisive public health response" that includes no-cost testing for the new coronavirus; access to treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus; developing vaccines and treatments for the disease; and increasing the capacity of the country's health care system. Biden's plan also calls for "a decisive economic response" focused on ensuring workers affected by the virus have paid sick leave and providing aid to Americans and state and local governments.

    • Health care funding: Biden has criticized proposals included in Trump's latest budget proposal that would cut funding for Medicare and Medicaid. Biden also has also advocated for increased federal funding for medical research, and led the Obama administration's cancer "moonshot" initiative.

    • Health care reform: Biden's health reform plan aims to build on and protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Biden's plan would create a so-called "public option" health plan that would serve as an alternative to traditional insurance plans, with premium rates for patients and payment for providers all set by the government. Biden's proposal also would eliminate the current income cap for receiving federal subsidies to offset the cost of exchange plans and would increase the amount of subsidies enrollees could receive.

    • Marijuana legalization: Biden has long opposed legalizing marijuana, and has called the substance a "gateway drug," Axios reports. While serving as vice president, Biden said he supports decriminalizing marijuana instead of legalizing the drug.

    • Maternal mortality: Biden's health plan calls for the nationwide implementation of a strategy used by the state of California to address maternal mortality rates. California's plan established the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, a public-private partnership that championed improvement strategies for maternal quality, including the development of a rapid-cycle Maternal Data Center, and the mobilization of a variety of public and private partners.

    • Mental health: Biden's health plan calls for the expansion of funding for mental health services and says it will ensure enforcement of mental health parity laws.

    • Prescription drug prices: Biden in his health reform plan proposed reducing the cost of prescription drugs by repealing current federal law that prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices with drug manufacturers. In addition, his plan would allow patients to purchase drugs from foreign countries, eliminate tax breaks on pharmaceutical ad spending, create a system to link prices for new specialty drugs to those in foreign countries, and tie price increases the general inflation rate. Biden's plan would also instruct the HHS secretary to construct an independent review board to assess the value of specialized drugs that have little to no competition. The board would then recommend a launch price for the drug based on the drug's average price in other countries or based on an evaluation by the board members, if the drug is entering the U.S. market first. The recommended price would be the rate Medicare and the established public option will pay for the drug. Biden's plan would also allow consumers to purchase prescription drugs from other countries, provided HHS has certified the drugs as safe.

    • Rural health care: Biden last July released a plan focused on bolstering rural parts of the United States through economic initiatives and investments and by expanding access to health care, CNN reports. Under the plan, Biden calls for building on the ACA as a way to ensure rural U.S. residents can access health coverage and care. Biden's plan also calls for increasing funding for community health centers, medical residencies in rural areas, rural hospitals, and telehealth services.

    • Substance misuse: According to the Washington Post's "The Fix," Biden in 1988 supported legislation that lengthened criminal sentences for drug charges. However, Biden last year called the legislation a "mistake." He said, "It was a big mistake when it was made," adding, "It's trapped an entire generation."

    • Vaccines: According to BuzzFeed News, Biden in the past has expressed support for vaccines. In 2016, he said, "I look forward to the day when your grandchildren and my grandchildren and their children show up at the office to get their physical to start school and get a shot for measles and they get a vaccine that affects significant causes of cancer."

    • Veterans' health care: Biden last November released plan that calls for ensuring veterans have access to quality health care that address their specific needs at Veterans Affairs facilities, lowering the suicide rate among veterans, increasing veterans' access to care in rural areas, and improving health care for women veterans, among other things.

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