Last month, former Vice President Joe Biden called for a public Medicare buy-in option, stopping shy of supporting the growing Medicare for All movement.
Medicare buy-in option
During his first public address after announcing his candidacy, Biden said, “Whether you’re covered through your employer or on your own or not, you all should have a choice to be able to buy into a public option plan for Medicare. Your choice. And if the insurance company isn’t doing the right thing by you, you should have another choice.”
While other Democratic presidential candidates have put out detailed plans for healthcare reform, Biden has yet to back a specific healthcare reform bill.
Fellow Democratic candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has publicly criticized Biden’s lackadaisical healthcare plans, saying they fall short of what the country needs in order to change American healthcare. “It doesn’t go anywhere near far enough,” Sanders said. “It will be expensive, it will not cover a whole lot of people.”
Healthcare is one of the defining issues Democratic presidential candidates are addressing going into the 2020 race. Sanders has set the tone with his Medicare for All proposal and bill, with progressive candidates like Kamala Harris throwing their support behind the legislation.
Other candidates who back the Medicare buy-in option include former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Healthcare union protests Joe Biden fundraiser
Healthcare unions like the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) are also displeased with Joe Biden. In fact, they plan to form a picket line at one of his upcoming fundraisers.
The fundraiser is hosted by the Kaiser Foundation, a subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente that operates hospitals. NUHW has been battling Kaiser over a year in pursuit of better working conditions for Kaiser’s mental healthcare workers.
NUHW represents 3,500 psychologists and other mental healthcare workers at Kaiser facilities. The union argues that Kaiser understaffs its mental health departments. This overburdens existing providers and leads to long wait times for vulnerable patients who are often in crisis.
“It doesn’t matter what [a patient’s] situation is. They could be struggling with parenting, they could be going through bereavement, they could have bipolar disorder,” one Kaiser therapist said. “They’re still gonna have to wait three months.”
Biden and Sanders are currently leading in the polls. If this trend continues, Biden will need to make more definitive commitments to his plans for healthcare reform.