On Tuesday night, the candidates faced off for the first time to discuss healthcare, COVID-19, and other important issues impacting the healthcare system. Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump met at the Cleveland Clinic, in Ohio in a heated exchange in which both candidates were rarely able to provide a complete statement without being interrupted.
Unfortunately, most of the discussion from both sides seemed more focused on getting in quick one-liners without much substantive discussion on the serious policies that will impact the citizens of the country. As we have discussed previously on the blog, nearly all policy issues can be tied back to impacting healthcare or public health. However, we will be focusing on the specific discussion on direct healthcare issues important for pharmacists and do our best to illustrate where the candidates stand on these important policies. Let’s focus on healthcare, the response to COVID, and systemic racism.
Biden’s message, when he was able to complete a sentence, was that his healthcare plans for the country are to expand public health insurance options for vulnerable communities in the country. When asked if his healthcare plan would result in the dissolving of private health insurance companies, Vice President Biden responded that they would be expanding Medicaid, and that the vast majority of people would remain on their private health insurance. This seems aligned with how Biden has described his plans in the past, in that his goal is to build upon the Affordable Care Act and expand access to healthcare for the uninsured and underinsured.
During the section of the debate on healthcare, President Trump was requested to explain what his plans are for how he would improve the healthcare system. Responses were largely claims that healthcare would improve under his leadership, but detailed policy recommendations were not provided. On the topic of the price of medications, Trump provided a similar explanation that prices would come down, without providing a clear explanation as to how this would be accomplished. When pressed on this issue he explained that insulin would be a comparable price to water, once again without providing detail on how this would happen.
This section of the debate took a dovetail into the pandemic, with Biden stating Trump’s actions during the pandemic, “ has cost 10 million people their healthcare because of his recession.”
During much of this section, Biden transitioned to be more on the attack rather than providing policy recommendations on what would be done differently. Statements such as, “The President has no plan” were the primary themes weaving throughout his statements. When discussing what would be done differently, or would be done if he becomes President, recommendations were vaguely worded, such as, keeping businesses and schools open and funding what needs to be funded in order to save lives.
One of the most clear statements said during this section was Biden’s support of wearing masks and following public health recommendations to minimize the spread of the virus. Biden paraphrased Trumps CDC Director, that if the American public wore masks between now and January, 100,000 lives would be saved.
Trump continued in this section to jump from one vague argument to another, while largely being focused on how media coverage of the administration’s response has been unfair. In a surprising turn to detail, Trump did provide some direction on Operation Warp Speed and what the administration has done to overcome manufacturing inefficiencies once a vaccine is discovered. He mentioned the military is prepared to administer 200,000 vaccines per day, supporting plans which have outlined that the military will be a primary access point for this key preventative healthcare measure.
Not much fruitful discussion was had on the topic of racism from either candidate. When asked point blank on his perspective on racism as a public health crisis and ties to police brutality, Biden expressed that we currently have a system in which racial insensitivity exists and that we must work towards one where we better hold people accountable.
Trump’s comments were largely focused in response to why he banned sensitivity training on racism. In response to these questions, Trump explained that he believed these trainings were racist, radical, and teaching people to hate the country.
“So let’s try to be serious about this”
Chris Wallace’s quote during the debate, which served as an attempt to ask both candidates to be respectful of one another, seems to be the overarching theme of the night. America showed up tonight to listen to a serious policy discussion and unfortunately, more focus was on making accusations of one another than seriously evaluating the policy differences of either candidate. As pharmacists, we need to understand the health policy positions of who we vote for because not only will the policies of the next President impact our ability to provide care, but it will impact our patients ability to access that care. More information on the policy positions of either candidate can be found on their campaign websites, along with what is reported on reputable news sources.