With a Biden presidency on its way, it is time to evaluate what that means for the average US consumer. Healthcare has been a contentious issue throughout the election, with many Americans wanting big changes to the 2010 Affordable Care Act (sometimes known as ACA, PPACA or ‘Obamacare’).
However, as one of the leading voices of the Affordable Care Act, the president-elect intends to both ‘protect and build’ upon the legislation. This suggests that we will see small, incremental changes as opposed to any radical overhaul.
While unlikely, this could affect the price of your medication. So, in order to offer peace of mind, we have provided an overview of Biden’s campaign promises and the potential impact they may have on medicine in the US.
Increasing insurance coverage
While the ACA was designed to address the gaps in US healthcare, 10.9% of Americans were still uninsured in 2019. This might not sound like a huge amount, but that is an estimated 28.9 million people. Due to increased unemployment rates as brought on by COVID-19, this is also likely to have increased in 2020.
The uninsured are typically families with at least one worker in the home. 73.7% of these families cite the cost of coverage as their reason for a lack of insurance. Obviously, the lack of insurance means that, when these individuals have to pay for medical care and are unable to do so, they often end up falling into debt.
To tackle this, Biden claims that he is going to increase cover to 97% of Americans. His strategy is to add an additional choice when it comes to health insurance: a public form of insurance much like Medicare. This public option will allow consumers to reduce their medical bills by negotiating lower prices from hospitals, and it will help businesses by acting as an affordable alternative to coverage.
He has also promised to increase the value of tax credits in order to lower premiums and extend coverage to more working Americans. Likewise, he plans to expand coverage to low-income Americans who do not currently qualify for Medicaid. This is a specific reference to the 4.8 million adults, across 14 states, who are not eligible on account of their governors and state legislators refusing the support.
For most Americans, this is unlikely to affect the cost of medication. However, it could impact the cover you currently have if you or your business chooses a public option.
Simplifying the healthcare system
Perhaps the biggest changes to US healthcare will be Biden’s plan to uncomplicate the current system – that is, to simplify the way consumers acquire and apply their cover.
The public insurance option will negotiate prices with providers, allowing individuals to get the most affordable option automatically. But to help make it even more affordable, middle-class families will soon be eligible for a premium tax credit to help them pay for coverage. What is more, these premium tax credits will be calculated to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles.
The overall aim of this simplification seems to be addressing market concentration across US healthcare as a whole. By increasing the amount of options available for consumers, Americans are able to prevent things such as ‘surprise billing’ and better provide for their families.
None of these measures are particularly controversial – not even with the pharmaceutical companies. After all, they donated over $5.9 million to Biden’s presidential campaign. This should be viewed as the biggest hint that four years of a Biden presidency means that medication will largely be business as usual.
Reshaping drug purchasing
Finally, Biden claims that he will be standing up to the abuse of power by prescription drug corporations. It is tough to say how successful he will ultimately be, but he does intend to introduce a number of measures to achieve it. This includes repealing the exception that allows such corporations to avoid negotiating with Medicare over drug prices.
Secondly, as a condition of participation in the Medicare program and public option, he will prohibit all brand, biotech and abusively priced generic drugs from increasing their prices more than the general inflation rate. This includes imposing a tax penalty on drug manufacturers that increase the costs of these drugs over that rate.
Speaking of generics, there will additionally be an increase in supply to help reduce overall US consumer medical expenses. The rules of patenting will remain the same, but schemes such as ensuring generic manufacturers have access to a sample should prevent the delay of widespread release.
Biden has also supported the purchasing of prescription drugs from other countries. Of course, through the likes of Medix Pharmacy, this has been available to US consumers for many years. However, with an endorsement such as this, it opens the door to more medication being supplied and bought online.
While we are not sure that the change in administration will affect the cost of your prescriptions, we do believe that there will be little change in how you access them. President-elect Biden appears to endorse the current health system and aims to improve its ease of use – which, at this stage, will not affect how you order your medicine.
In fact, with his endorsement of online purchasing, the only difference you can expect to see is an increase in the popularity of online pharmacies. And that is why it is all the more important to use suppliers you can trust.
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