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Biden Backs Commercial Health Insurance in Debate With Trump

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Donald Trump and Joe Biden both said Thursday that they’d want to keep commercial health insurance around.

Trump, the Republican nominee, said he’d still prefer to “terminate Obamacare” and “come up with a brand new, beautiful health care.”

Biden, the Democratic nominee, said any suggestions that he wants to eliminate commercial health insurance, and to move to the kind of government-run single-payer health finance system proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, are incorrect.

“The reason why I had such a fight with 20 candidates for the nomination was that I support private insurance,” Biden said.


  • A C-SPAN recording of the debate, with a transcript search tool, is available here.
  • The debate transcript is available here.
  • An article about Democratic senators who could determine what health bills get through the Senate in the next Congress is available here.

Trump and Biden talked about health policy in Nashville, Tennessee, at the second 2020 presidential debate.

Biden also talked about his support for keeping commercial health insurance around Sept. 29, during the first debate.

Trump’s Views

Trump said the country needs to make sure that the 180 million people who have employer-sponsored health coverage keep their plans.

“These are people that love their health care,” Trump said.

Trump said that his administration has already terminated the Affordable Care Act individual mandate — the provision that required many people to have a minimum level of health coverage or else pay a penalty.

“That is the worst part of Obamacare,” Trump said. “The individual mandate, where you have to pay a fortune for the privilege of not having to pay for bad health insurance. I terminated it. It’s gone. Now, it’s in court, because Obamacare is no good. But then I made a decision, run it as well as you can… I could have gone the other route and made everybody very unhappy.”

At this point, Trump said, premiums are down.

But “here’s the problem,” Trump said. “No matter how well you run it, it’s no good. What we’d like to do is terminate it…. But, it no longer is Obamacare, because, without the individual mandate, it’s much different.”

Biden’s Views

When Biden talked about health policy, he emphasized that his public option proposal would create a government-run alternative to private insurance for low-income people.

The public option plan would provide competition for the private plans, Biden said.

“How many of you at home are worried and rolling around in bed at night, wondering what in God’s name you’re going to do if you get sick, because you’ve lost your health insurance and your company’s gone under?” Biden asked. “We have to provide health insurance for people at an affordable rate.”

Biden said he’d let Medicare push down drug prices by letting Medicare negotiate drug prices with insurance companies.

Biden also criticized Trump’s assertion that it would be simple to protect the ability of people with health problems to get affordable coverage while getting rid of the ACA.

“There’s no way he can protect pre-existing conditions,” Biden said. “None. Zero. You can’t do it in the ether…. The fact is that he’s already cost the private insurance of 10 million American people, because of his terrible handling of the COVID virus and economic spillover. And he wants to take it away from 22 million more people who have Obamacare, and from over 110 million people who have pre-existing conditions. And all of the people who have had COVID are going to have pre-existing conditions. What are they going to do?”

America’s Health Insurance Plans’ Perspective

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a group for health insurers, held an online event Thursday that was aimed at reporters from consumer-oriented publications.

One of the main point AHIP and the speakers tried to make is that uninsured consumers should ignore what they’re hearing about the Affordable Care Act from the news.

Steve Lopez, director of UnidosUS, a group with a strong interest in health policy, said he heard of a family that had to be talked into applying for coverage through an ACA public exchange, because the family thought that the ACA had already been repealed.

Jeannette Thornton, AHIP’s senior vice president for producer, employer and commercial policy, said AHIP is watching the U.S. Supreme Court closely to see how it rules on the Texas v. California ACA constitutionality case.

But, for uninsured consumers, “it’s really important to isolate yourself from the news,” Thornton said.

No matter the courts and candidates are saying, “In terms of your actions for open enrollment, I don’t think it matters,” Thornton said.

— Read Biden and Trump Agree on Role for Private Health Insuranceon ThinkAdvisor.

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