Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Thursday warned that President Donald Trump could take down the Affordable Care Act and promised a more coordinated national response to COVID-19.
Biden's speech was the culmination of a convention focused more on his personality and character traits than his policy plans. One of his most aggressive healthcare policy ideas, creating a government-sponsored public health insurance option, was hardly mentioned during the four-day event.
But Biden still prominently featured the centerpiece of Democrats' healthcare messaging in 2020: bashing a Republican and Trump administration-backed lawsuit that could invalidate the Afforable Care Act. If the lawsuit were to succeed it could lead to dire consequences, Biden warned. He noted that millions of Medicaid beneficiaries could lose coverage if the law is overturned, and protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions would also be negated.
"The assault on the Affordable Care Act will continue until it is destroyed," Biden said.
Instead, Biden called for building on the ACA to lower premiums, deductibles and prescription drug prices. House Democrats in June passed legislation that would bolster the Affordable Care Act by hiking premium subsidies and incentivizing states to expand Medicaid. A Medicare drug-price negotiation provision that would tie bargaining boundaries to international drug prices was included in the bill to help offset its cost.
If he were to pursue more aggressive reforms, it's unclear from Biden's policy positions how much a public option program would pay hospitals or how consumers' overall out-of-pocket costs would be affected. Biden proposes paying for a public option by rolling back some of the Trump administration's tax cuts.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden's most formidable rival and the author of Medicare for All legislation, also didn't mention Biden's public option plan during his convention speech, instead highlighting Biden's proposals to lower the Medicare eligibility age to 60 and to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices.
Biden also attacked Trump's record on containing the coronavirus pandemic, calling the Trump administration's handling of the disease "by far the worst performance of any nation on earth."
On the first day of his presidency, Biden said he would begin implementing a national strategy to address COVID-19, including scaling up rapid testing and boosting domestic manufacturing for medical supplies and personal protective equipment.
The Democratic nominee also criticized Trump's recent executive order deferring the collection of payroll taxes, and claimed that if Trump eliminated the tax, it would cut Social Security without a way to make up lost revenue.
"I will not let it happen. If I'm your president, we're going to protect Social Security and Medicare," Biden said.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted Thursday that eliminating the payroll tax will not cut Social Security because money would be pulled from the general fund.
The Republican National Convention will begin on Aug. 24.