March 2, 2020

*Editor's note: This story was updated April 15, 2020.

A number of candidates have announced they are seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020—and most have indicated health care will be one of their major priorities.

The Daily Briefing will update this page throughout the 2020 presidential primary season to show where the prominent Democratic presidential hopefuls stand on health care. Here's where they stand so far:

Former VP Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden on April 25 announced that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Biden served in the U.S. Senate for about 40 years, and served as vice president under former President Barack Obama. His time in both positions offers insight into where he stands on various 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. According to the Times "As recently as 2008, [Biden] said he believed life began at conception, though he emphasized that this was a personal view and that he did not think it was appropriate to impose it on others through abortion restrictions." Still, 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." However, Biden in June said he no longer supports the amendment. Biden has expressed support for requiring private insurers to cover contraceptives and funding Planned Parenthood.

  • Health care funding: Biden has criticized proposals included in Trump's 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 reformBiden's health reform plan aims to build and protect the Affordable Care Act. Biden's plan would create a so-called "public option" health plan that would be available to all Americans, including those with employer-sponsored coverage. 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. In addition, Biden in April proposed lowering the age at which Americans become eligible for Medicare from 65 to 60. Under the plan, Americans ages 60 to 64 who are enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans could choose to either keep that coverage or enroll in Medicare.

  • 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 pharma's 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 will 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 in 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 Affordable Care Act 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 in November released a 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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With the 2020 elections approaching, public and political support for Medicare for All is surging. Use this briefing to learn the top 15 insights that will drive health system success this year and beyond.

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