On Health Care, the 2020 Presidential Race Pits Bad Ideas Against Bad Faith
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death last week has thrown the presidential race into chaos. By once again placing health care policy in the foreground of the election, it has unleashed a more familiar political dynamic, in which bad ideas are pitted against bad faith.
Following Ginsburg’s passing, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden signaled that he would respond by elevating health policy issues in the race. The Supreme Court is currently scheduled to hear a challenge to Obamacare shortly after the election; a Trump appointee to the court, the argument goes, might be more sympathetic to the challengers than a Biden nominee. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has taken the unusual step of declining to defend the law, arguing that it should be struck down in federal court.
There’s a clear political logic to Biden’s move: Polling suggests that the single most effective issue for Democrats in the 2018 midterm election, where they overtook Republicans in the House, was health care. Democrats argued that Republicans who opposed Obamacare would eliminate the law’s regulations governing how insurance companies must treat individuals with preexisting conditions; many polls show those regulations are popular (although public support falls when the public is told about their costs). Republicans appear to have suffered at the polls accordingly, with Republican leaders admitting privately that the issue cost them seats. Biden’s plan appears to be to rerun the messaging strategy that proved most successful for Democrats in 2018.
In doing so, however, Biden will inevitably highlight his own health care plan, which he has billed as an attempt to build on Obamacare. But Biden’s plan is better understood as an admission that the law, which Biden helped promote and pass as vice president, has not worked as promised. Biden would spend $750 billion, according to his own campaign estimates, to set up a government-run insurance plan, expanding both the law’s coverage subsidies and eligibility for them, in order to accomplish the goals the original law was supposed to accomplish on its own.
As conservative health policy analyst Chri
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