Editor’s Note: Joe Biden is one of 10 presidential candidates taking part in a Democratic debate Wednesday, July 31, at 8:00 p.m. ET on CNN. Ten others debated on Tuesday evening. He is the former Vice President of the United States. The views expressed are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
A car accident that took the lives of my first wife and baby daughter just weeks after I was elected to the Senate for the first time badly injured my sons, Beau and Hunter, who were confined to hospital beds for weeks. At just 4 years old, Beau would turn to his brother in the hospital and say, “Hunt. Look at me, look at me. I love you.” He was like that his entire life, up until his death in 2015, after a grueling battle with brain cancer.
My family was fortunate enough to have health insurance. But there are so many families that have had losses as severe or worse than mine and who didn’t have the incredible support or resources that I did. During both of these defining experiences in my life, I imagined what it must be like for the millions of moms and dads, and sons and daughters who are at their loved ones’ bedsides worried about how they will be able to pay for the care they need.
This is personal for me. This is why I fight. I believe deeply that health care is a right for all – not a privilege for the few.
Every American deserves the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have insurance that allows them access to affordable, high-quality health care. No one in this country should have to lay in bed at night staring at the ceiling wondering, “what will I do if she gets breast cancer?” or “if he has a heart attack?”
You won’t find peace of mind if you cannot afford to care for a sick child or a family member because of a pre-existing condition, because you’ve reached a point where your health insurer says, “no more” or because you have to make a decision between putting food on the table, and going to the doctor or getting a prescription filled. But before the Affordable Care Act, that was the reality for millions of Americans.
That’s why I was so proud to stand alongside President Barack Obama and fight to pass the Affordable Care Act. It’s why I oppose every effort – by Republicans or Democrats – to get rid of this historic law. And it’s why I have proposed a health care plan that is the quickest, most effective way to achieve universal coverage. My plan will increase the value of tax credits to lower premiums and extend coverage to more working Americans, so that no family buying insurance on the individual marketplace, regardless of income, will have to spend more than 8.5% of their income on health insurance.
By calculating the value of tax credits based on the cost of a more generous gold plan, more families will have the ability to afford more generous coverage, with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Lower income households will have a new opportunity to get the quality health care they deserve, and middle-class families will see their premiums reduced.
My plan is the fastest and most effective way to achieve universal coverage at less than 1/30th the cost of Medicare for All, by protecting and building on Obamacare instead of creating a new system. Time is precious, and families experiencing health care problems and rising medical bills right now can’t wait for us to start over with a complete overhaul of our health care system, including the elimination of Obamacare, and after a transition period, the elimination of your private insurance.
The ACA covered 20 million more Americans and protected over 100 million people, including any with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental health challenges. The number of Americans under 65 lacking health insurance fell from 44 million to 27 million – an almost 40% drop in three years. Insurance companies were banned from placing annual or lifetime limits on essential health benefits, and young people were allowed to stay enrolled on their parents’ plan until age 26. That is why many insurance companies opposed Obamacare, and why today they oppose my proposal.
I believe it is imperative we build upon this progress by giving Americans more choice, reducing health care costs, making our health care system less complex to navigate and expanding coverage to low-income individuals. Too many people across the country are still left without hope because they can’t afford their prescription medicines or, worse, don’t have options. And, as the Trump administration has carried out unrelenting assaults on the law, the number of uninsured Americans has increased by roughly 1.4 million.
Everyday Americans can attest firsthand to the impact and value of the ACA. Because of the ACA, Marianne, was able to take care of her husband Mark, who was previously diagnosed with Stage 4 carcinoma cancer of the left tonsil, while still having the insurance they needed for Mark’s treatment. Today, with the constant attacks on the ACA, Mark and Marianne are concerned whether they will have insurance next year. As Mark says, every time there is an attack on the law, “our health care is under attack.”
Because a union fought for their private health insurance plan, Marcy and her husband were able to retire with dignity and keep their private insurance. That’s why my plan to protect and build on the ACA will give folks the option to choose what’s best for them. If you are uninsured or your insurance company isn’t doing right by you, then you should have the choice to buy into a public option like Medicare.
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As President, I’ll create a new public option, lower health care costs and tackle some of our greatest public health challenges, including reducing gun violence and curing devastating diseases as we know them, like cancer and Alzheimer’s. I know how hard it is to get it done. But I also believe there is no cause too great or challenge too insurmountable for the American people.
Mark, Marianne, Marcy and so many other families are counting on us. They don’t have time to spare waiting for us to secure their insurance, further lower their health care costs, and find new cures. And there are other families just like theirs all across the country.