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Biden Aims to Work With Republicans on Health Legislation

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Joe Biden Joe Biden (Credit: Biden)

President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday that the effects of a lack of adequate COVID-19 emergency funding for state and local governments may increase the odds that Republicans will work with him on health care legislation and other legislation.

Biden talked about his legislative strategy after he made remarks, in Wilmington, about efforts by the administration of President Donald Trump to have the U.S. Supreme Court strike down all of the Affordable Care Act. The court heard oral arguments on an ACA constitutionality case, Texas v. California, earlier in the day.

“This case is the latest attempt by the far right ideologues to do what they repeatedly failed to do for a long time, in the courts, in Congress, in the court of public opinion. over the last decade to eliminate the entirety of the Affordable Care Act,” Biden said.

Resources

  • A link to a video of Biden’s remarks about the Affordable Care Act is available here.
  • An article about what Biden said Monday about COVID-19 is available here.

Congress has repeatedly rejected efforts to kill the ACA, and surveys show that the ACA continues to have strong support from the American people, Biden said.

Surveys also show that Republicans strongly support the ACA provisions that protect people with preexisting conditions, Biden said.

“When a family is faced with the awful news of a child’s diagnosis with leukemia, or a mom forced to battle against breast cancer, an accident that leaves loved ones unable to live the life they’ve always known, it stops your heart,” Biden said. “At that moment, the very last thing on your mind, the very last thing should be on your mind, is whether you can afford the treatment,” Biden said.

Biden — who has lost a son to cancer, and who has undergone brain surgery twice, for aneurysms — said of his family that, “We have been, unfortunately, significant consumers of health care.”

Biden said he would protect other Americans’ access to health care the way he protects his own family.

“That starts by building on the Affordable Care Act, with the dramatic expanding of health care coverage and bold steps to lower health care cost,” Biden said.

Biden gave no details himself, but he said he wants his team to tackle the details now, so that his administration can hit the ground running on health policy issues.

“Come January, we’re going to work quickly with Congress to dramatically ramp up health care protections, get Americans universal coverage, and lower health care cost, as soon as humanly possible,” Biden said.

A reporter later asked Biden how he expects to work with Congress, given that Democrats appear to be on track to have a narrower majority in the House, and that the Senate may continue to be under Republican control.

Biden said he’s already spoken to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the House minority leader.

“I think we can get a lot done,” Biden said.

“One of the urgent things that need to be done is people need relief right now,”  Biden said. “Small businesses, people who are about to be evicted from their home because they can’t pay their mortgage, unemployment insurance. You know, what’s going to happen is, we’re going to see what people don’t realize is the failure to provide state and local assistance. You’re going to see police officers, firefighters, first responders laid off, and I think the pressure is going to build.”

The Trump administration is objecting to election processes and tallies in some states, and the Electoral College is not scheduled to finalize the process of choosing the next president until Dec. 14.

Biden said he expects work with Republicans in Congress to change after the Electoral College has weighed in.

Republicans will face significant pressure to act on issues like health care, because their own constituents are struggling to get and pay for health care,” Biden said.

“I think we can get a lot done,” Biden said.

Transition Team

The Biden administration posted an “Agency Review Teams” announcement that may give further clues about the administration’s early policymaking efforts.

Members of the new teams will be “responsible for understanding the operations of each agency, ensuring a smooth transfer of power, and preparing for President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect [Kamala] Harris and their cabinet to hit the ground running on Day One,” according to the introduction to the announcement.

The agency review team list for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appears to be heavy on the names of people who have come out of the worlds of academia, government and health care delivery.

  • One volunteer on the HHS team, Mina Hsiang, is vice president of policy and government affairs at Devoted Health. The Waltham, Massachusetts-based organization runs a Medicare Advantage health maintenance organization aimed at people who are eligible both for Medicare and for Medicaid.

From 2013 through 2015, Hsiang was vice president of market strategy and analytics at Optum, which is part of UnitedHealth Group.

  • Devoted Health’s top investor has been Andreessen Horowitz. One of the members of the company’s board is Kathleen Sebelius, who was president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2001. Sebelius has also been the governor of Kansas and the HHS Secretary.
  • One of the volunteers on the U.S. Treasury Department agency review team is Liyan David Chang, who is an engineer at Devoted Health. From January 2014 through February 2015, Chang worked on fixing HealthCare.gov bugs.
  • Keia Cole, head of digital experience at Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, is a volunteer on the U.S. Department of Education review team.
  • Matt Collier, a senior director at Prudential PLC, the parent of Jackson National, is a volunteer on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management review team.

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