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The two leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination laid out their plans to respond to COVID-19 on Thursday as markets reeled following an address from President Donald Trump. The plans from former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are the latest indication that response to the coronavirus outbreak will be an election issue.
Both candidates called for affordable testing and treatment. Biden proposed waiving all out-of-pocket costs for testing, treatment, and an eventual vaccine and banning surprise medical bills. Sanders used the opportunity to highlight his single-payer healthcare proposal, which would not have deductibles or copays.
Both candidates suggested that there be some sort of hotline or advice line so individuals can get up-to-date information, and they called for wide testing availability. They also broadly supported proposals to expand paid sick and family leave, unemployment insurance, food security programs, and loans for small- and medium-sized businesses. They also called for increased production of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.
The candidates' responses diverged somewhat on how to ensure affordability of vaccines. While Biden called for the HHS secretary to have the authority to approve commercial market prices, Sanders called on drugmakers to sell the vaccines at cost.
Sanders also called for Trump to declare COVID-19 a national disaster or emergency, which the president has not yet done. Sanders asked that a moratorium on evictions and utility shutoffs be instituted, shelters be built for the homeless and other vulnerable groups, and measures be taken to ensure the health of people in nursing homes, prisons and detention centers.
Biden's plan called for re-instituting a National Security Council directorate in charge of global health security, which the Trump administration eliminated, the deployment of federal medical stations, a state and local response fund, an across-the-board increase in federal Medicaid matching funds, reversing the Trump administration's public charge rule and delaying the Medicaid and Fiscal Accountability Rule.