What Will Healthcare Look Like Under Biden’s Presidency?

Illustrated by Noor Ghanam

Healthcare was one of the most important topics in this year’s presidential election. Within healthcare, each candidate’s COVID-19 plans also became a hot topic during their debates. Now that Biden has become the president-elect, many are wondering what Biden’s healthcare plans will look like.

Although Trump “has significantly ramped up [COVID] testing since the spring, [his] administration was initially painfully slow to distribute tests and personal protective equipment”[1]. Statistics of recovery and death rates demonstrate that early action was a key strategy in most countries that succeeded in curbing the effects of the pandemic, such as what New Zealand and Taiwan implemented [2]. Therefore, Biden does have limited power in how fast he can mitigate the effects of Trump’s decisions. However, he plans to increase accessibility for at-home testing so that people can avoid crowd gatherings and lower their risk of infection by avoiding testing centers. In addition to producing more personal protective equipment, he also wishes to allocate double the amount of funds that Trump did in order to produce and distribute vaccines to civilians [9].

Vice-president elect Kamala Harris also plans to create “the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force” in order to address causes that make minority populations much more vulnerable to infection than others. This task force would decide how to distribute “PPE… vaccinations” and “testing supplies”. It would also collect data on hospital treatment for different minority groups [4]. 

The pandemic is not the only important health issue that Trump and Biden disagree on. When it comes to reproductive health like abortion, Trump guaranteed that if he were re-elected, he would appoint judges to overrule Roe v. Wade, which has protected women’s legal rights to terminate their pregnancies since 1973. On the other hand, Biden promised to ensure that women could still have abortions even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Biden is also going to reverse Trump’s cut down of the resources of Title X, the “federal program for affordable birth control and reproductive care”[7]. This has dramatically reduced Title X’s capacity to provide “contraceptive services” to “1.6 million patients” [3].

Biden wishes to replace his cabinet with more women and people of color [8]. One of the divisions of the Cabinet is called Health and Human Services (HHS), which “protects the health of all Americans” through public health measures [5]. This executive department has a lot of influence over coronavirus measures as well as supporting The Affordable Health Act. Up until a few days ago, Biden’s top choices for this division’s secretary position were the“former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and North Carolina Health Secretary Mandy Cohen” [8]. While Grisham is the only one already directly working with Biden, Murthy’s medical reputation and Cohen’s role in Medicare and Medicaid also makes her a strong candidate for this position  [8, 11]. However, just a couple of days ago, Biden revealed his choice – Xavier Becerra. Biden’s choice surprised many people, as Becerra’s name was not on the potential candidates list predicted by different newspapers. Becerra is currently the “attorney general in California” and has led almost half of the US “in a campaign to protect the Affordable Care Act from being dismantled by his Republican counterparts. He has also been vocal in the Democratic Party about fighting for women’s health” [10]. As part of the Latinx community, Becerra will likely concentrate more of HHS’s resources on minority communities that are the most affected by the pandemic. However, Becerra has never led a “bureaucracy as large and diverse as HHS”. He also has little background in public health since a large portion of his previous work focused on “criminal justice and immigration” [6, 10]. 

Though it seems like Biden is more trusting of science and welcomes diversity more than Trump did during his presidency, we are yet to know whether Biden will actually implement what he promised. Hopefully, this new administration will bring a long-overdue end to the pandemic.

Edited by: Soyi Sarkar
Illustrated by: Noor Ghanam

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