A Brief Overview of the Democratic Candidates’ Healthcare Proposals

Ashley Rosenberg

One of the most hotly debated issues in the 2020 Democratic Primaries has been Healthcare. Who should get it, who should pay for it, and how should we pay for it have all been questions asked by both the public and moderators during the debates.  As the race begins to tighten, with five clear front runners emerging, it’s especially important to understand these candidate’s healthcare proposals. The candidates chosen for this article were based on the RealClearPolitics 2020 Presidential Nomination Polls, in which the same candidates have been polling in the top five for upwards of six months. This is not to say that these candidates are the only ones in the race, or who have a chance at winning the nomination. These are just the healthcare proposals most likely to be implemented by Democrats should they be voted into power. 


Former Vice President Joe Biden has based his healthcare proposal around the Affordable Care Act, the hallmark achievement of the Obama administration. His proposal emphasizes choice in healthcare, by giving citizens the option to buy into a public option like Medicare, or to continue with their private health insurance. He has also pledged to make healthcare more affordable by lowering the maximum percentage of income families can be charged for their insurance from 9.86% to 8.5%. Further, Biden plans to use antitrust laws to promote competition between insurance companies and therefore reduce prices. He plans to use the same idea of competition to reduce prescription drug costs by allowing Americans to purchase drugs from overseas, and he would also increase production of generic brand drugs. 


Pete Buttiegieg describes his policy as “Medicare for All Who Want It,” and it is exactly as it sounds. His policy states that he will offer a public option for anyone who chooses to buy in to it. This in turn will create competition between insurance companies and the public option, so insurance companies will be forced to either create plans that are better than the public option or become obsolete. His plan aims to reduce the amount Americans spend on health care by 50% while increasing the standard of care. In order to pay for this, he plans to lower administrative costs by creating one national database for both insurance claims and medical records, making it much easier to switch between healthcare providers. 


Senator Kamala Harris’ plan calls for Medicare for All in order to reduce costs and worry for Americans. Her plan allows people to buy into Medicare immediately if they so choose. Then, over a ten year period, Medicare for All will be phased in so that at the end of the ten years, everyone in the United States will be required to be insured through the public option. Private insurance companies would have the option to become integrated into the Medicare for all system, but they would be held to higher standards set by the government, and they would be reimbursed less than government-run Medicare. Harris plans to pay for Medicare for All by taxing Wall Street stock trades, bond trades, and derivative transactions at rates of .2%, .1%, and 0.002%, respectively. With the amount of transactions occurring daily, these rates would theoretically be enough to cover the cost of her program. 


Senator Bernie Sanders has long been a champion of Medicare for All and the single payer system, and his healthcare proposal does not differ from these ideals. Under his proposal, everyone would be required to be covered under the government system, and private insurance companies would cease to exist. 


Senator Elizabeth Warren supports Medicare for All and the elimination of private insurance companies in order to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable healthcare. In order to lower the cost of this proposal, Warren’s plan includes the Affordable Drug Manufacturing Plan which allows the government to both manufacture generic brands of drugs, and negotiate prices with drug companies. 

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