Clinton: The Pragmatic Candidate for Health Care Reform
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both 2016 Democratic presidential candidates, have a shared vision of greater access to affordable health care. Although they share similar goals, Clinton has the advantage of an exceptionally thorough and practical strategy.
Both candidates plan to limit the period of time that a pharmaceutical company can have a monopoly on drug patents, so that cheaper generic brands may proliferate in the market. Sanders and Clinton equally endorse paid maternity and paternity leave in support of working parents. In addition, each advocates for a negotiation between private pharmaceutical companies and Medicare in order to lower the cost of prescription drugs for those insured under the federal plan.
Medicare is a primary source of national health insurance for individuals not directly employed by large companies, individuals with disabilities, and low-income individuals; however, it does not offer full coverage. Pressuring pharmaceutical companies to accept lower prices for their products when selling to individuals insured by Medicare would expand coverage among a vulnerable subset of the US population. In contrast, President Obama made significant concessions to the pharmaceutical industry in order to gain enough support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to pass and become law in 2010.
Clinton further represents those insured by Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans Affairs (all federal insurance programs) by advocating for the implementation of electronic healthcare records in these institutions. These records would increase the reliability of assessment provided by federal health care practitioners so that it is on par with the standard already upheld within private healthcare institutions.
For those insured by other means, Sanders promotes a transition towards a single payer health care system. In 2013, the senator introduced a bill called the American Health Security Act (AHSA), which would require each participating state to set up and administer a single payer health program. In addition to diverging from the recent advances in health care reform accomplished by the ACA, a single payer health care system entirely funded by the federal government is not guaranteed to lower the cost of insurance.
The ACA has yet to go into full effect and millions have already enrolled in health insurance plans under its reforms. Sanders did vote for the passage of the ACA, and would like to continue to improve upon it during the transition to a single payer health system. But nevertheless, he is planning to phase out a set of policies that has so recently improved the lives of Americans, in exchange for an entirely new, albeit theoretically admirable, plan of action. This may introduce resistance from both political opponents and constituents benefiting under the ACA.
Clinton’s endorsement of the provisions established by the ACA, in comparison, is supplemented by her willingness to improve upon it. Furthermore, the former Secretary of State recognizes the needs of a diverse population outside the ranges of the ACA as equally pressing. In consideration of companies that employ fewer than fifty individuals (companies not mandated to provide health insurance employees under the ACA), Clinton pushes for tax credits to be granted to small businesses that offer health insurance options for their employees. She also has plans to insure undocumented immigrants and send life-saving resources to individuals in developing countries. Clinton carefully covers those with chronic conditions with a firm $250 monthly cap on out-of-pocket spending for medications. As she has repeatedly expressed her concern for individuals who do not have health insurance under the status quo, it is likely that she will continue to include diverse groups in her reform agenda.
To battle the possibility of overall premium rate increases, Clinton plans to limit the rate-increasing power of private insurers. Furthermore, as a proponent of more effective medicine, she has devised a plan to reroute the revenue of pharmaceutical companies into the government (by eliminating certain tax breaks associated with pharmaceutical advertising) and into science (by mandating that a proportion of profits be invested in research). The funding for new research would come directly from the pharmaceutical revenue, whereas Sanders promotes a more dubiously funded prize-incentives system in which companies would be given money by the government in exchange for successful patents.
Clinton has been a staunch advocate for health care reform since her days as First Lady. For example, in 1993 she led the efforts to reform health care under her husband’s presidential administration, though the resulting bill ultimately did not pass. This piece of latent legislation held many of the goals and provisions accomplished by the ACA and more. Clearly, this is an issue that has been on Clinton’s agenda for a long time and is one that she is more than prepared to systematically address, for people of all walks of life.