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‘This is healthcare moonshot time’: Pandemic pulls Biden, Dems further to the left

“The pandemic is an” emperor has no clothes “moment when it comes to insurance companies,” said Josh Orton, a Sanders delegate and member of the platform’s design committee who voted earlier this month to approve the platform. “When everyone is dismissed from work, it becomes clear why it is insane to have insurance with your employer.”

Biden maintained his opposition to Medicare for All in the primaries and criticized the plan as being too expensive and unrealistic at a news conference on Tuesday. And the platform committee of the Democratic National Committee on Monday nearly ruled out formal approval of the system in the 2020 party shelf in a lopsided 36-125 vote. The challenge for Biden will be to continue the work of a “unity task force” that he set up with Sanders, following an incremental but decidedly progressive policy, such as automatically enrolling low-income people in the public option.

“There is no doubt that the pandemic has taken the cover of some real flaws in the US health system and made them much grimmer, and it is boosting momentum for a universal health care plan,” said Kathleen Sebelius, former Secretary of Health and Human Services now advises the Biden campaign.

Biden’s position marks a noticeable shift from before the pandemic, when the discussion focused more on controlling health costs than expanding coverage. For example, President Donald Trump’s budgets suggested cutting billions of dollars from Medicare, despite his campaign promise to leave the program alone. Biden’s policy is also remarkably more ambitious than the Democrat-controlled House, which has not voted on the public option, let alone Medicare for All.

“This is the time of healthcare,” said Irwin Redlener, the founding director of Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness, who was part of the Biden public health campaign earlier this year. “My feeling is that we will not see a moderate, watered-down, gradual series of changes. I expect a huge plan that will change the way Americans receive health care forever. ‘

Still, some inside and outside the campaign would like to see more robust proposals moving closer to a single-payer health system, believing that the country’s grim conditions will make the public more receptive to forward-thinking ideas than some politicians think.

“There has been a shift towards being more receptive to bigger solutions to our two biggest problems: coverage and affordability,” said Ezekiel Emanuel, president of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of Biden’s public health. Advisory Committee. “But people’s thinking has not caught up with the awful situation we find ourselves in.”

The pandemic accelerated a backlog of the precarious nature of a health care system targeting private coverage related to work and the need for more government intervention, according to more than a dozen Biden health advisers, task force members, and DNC platform commissioners speaking to POLITICO.

“It is even more evident at a time when many people have lost employer coverage and are struggling to make ends meet,” said former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, a senior advisor to Biden.

The Unit Task Force has recommended several proposals this month that cross even further to the left. In addition to the enhanced public option and Medicare at age 60, the group called for free Covid-19 testing and treatment, boosting the federal competition for states expanding Medicaid, extending Medicare benefits with coverage for dentistry , sight and hearing, implementation of direct government negotiation on the prices of pharmaceuticals and undocumented immigrants, the ability to purchase unsubsidized Obamacare coverage.

“We didn’t get everything we wanted. We didn’t turn Biden into Bernie Sanders, but we were able to make tremendous progress, ”said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Lead Author of the House Medicare for All Bill.

But while sentiment has shifted to the left under the Democratic voter base, actual deputies and party formation are more centrist than in 2016 because Sanders performed much worse in the primaries.

Chris Jennings, a White House health care policy advisor to the Obama administration and one of Biden’s choices for the task force, said Biden’s primaries victory showed that both Democrats and the general public prefer the public option over health care for one payer – a view supported by polling.

“In our primary discussion, we had a debate about two bold visions, one won the other,” he said. “But compared to current law, they are both very brave.”

Sarah Bianchi, one of Biden’s top economic and domestic policy officers when he was vice president, said POLITICO Biden’s health platform will look even bolder in the general election compared to President Donald Trump and his legislative and legal efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act.

“The difference is we compared it to Medicare for All, so people said,” It’s so moderate! So incremental! ” She said. “Now I’m sure we’ll hear it from the other side – it’s a slippery slope and it’s socialism.”

The Trump campaign has already strived to paint Biden as a puppet from the left, and the health sector throughout the primary commercial hit the public option as the first step towards health care for a single payer.

Biden’s campaign acknowledges that even her centrist proposals would be difficult to pass through Congress, but tries to use opposition to monetary interests to spur her progressive bona fide.

“The Vice President is very aware that there are parts of his agenda that certain interests may oppose, perhaps because it reduces their profit margins,” said Murthy. “He’s clear about the fact that in some cases it requires fighting, and he’s willing to do that. He is not deterred by political pressure or opposition in the sector. ‘

Arielle Kane, the health director of the Progressive Policy Institute, who has prepared health policies for Michael Bloomberg’s campaign and advised the Biden campaign, applauds this new, more aggressive rhetoric.