The first and second presidential debates on September 26th and October 9th, respectively, created quite a stir. In the first presidential debate, issues such as immigration, income inequality, and mass incarceration were debated. However, amid the critical national issues discussed, a very important topic was left out: health care. According to CBS News/New York Times poll, health care is considered the most important issue of this election for approximately 16 percent of Americans. Healthcare trails just behind the economy & jobs and national security & immigration. In the second presidential debate, health policy was discussed only briefly. Clinton argued that she would “fix” Obamacare whereas Trump said that he would repeal it and replace it “with something absolutely much less expensive and something that works.” While it is likely, if not almost guaranteed, that health policy will be discussed in more detail in the last presidential debate, it’s critical to ask, how do Clinton and Trump actually plan on lowering costs and improving healthcare for all Americans?
Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, plans on actively defending Affordable Care Act, which currently protects more than 20 million people throughout the United States. In addition, she plans on expanding coverage by making “public option” possible, a government-run health insurance agency that would compete with other private insurance companies. Public option would, according to Clinton, expand consumer choice and lower costs by introducing competition into the health insurance marketplace. She also plans on providing tax credit to those whose premiums and out-of-pocket health insurance costs exceed five percent of their income. Her health policy plan would allow Americans access to health insurance, regardless of immigration status.
On the other hand, the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the first day of his administration. Instead of requiring all Americans to buy insurance, he plans on allowing individuals who buy private insurance to deduct premiums from their taxes. However, Trump’s tax credits would benefit higher-income Americans more than lower-income Americans. Overall, Trump believes in the power of free market principles and giving power back to the states to increase access to affordable, quality, health care. This belief manifests in policy proposals that include modifying the law that prohibits the sale of health insurance across state lines and on giving states a fixed amount to pay for Medicaid, rather than the federal government paying for a fixed share of each enrollee’s costs.
How do Clinton’s and Trump’s policies play out in improving health coverage and decreasing the federal deficit?
A report from the Rand Corp. found that the number of uninsured Americans would soar by 20.3 million under Trump’s plan. This would largely be the result of Trump’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act. However, Clinton’s plan would lower the number of uninsured by 9.1 million due to her plan to offer tax credit to aid individuals with lower or moderate-incomes to pay for premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
While Clinton’s proposed plan would significantly increase health coverage, her plan will be quite costly for the national deficit. Under Clinton’s plan, the deficit would soar by $88.5 billion, due to the plan to provide tax credit to those whose individual premium and out-of-pocket costs exceed five percent of their income. On the other hand, Trump’s plan would increase the federal deficit only by $5.8 billion due to tax deduction and allowing sale of health insurance across state lines. Trump’s plan to change the Medicaid policy by providing fixed grants to states would also save the government $33 billion.
In an election in which policy discussions have become muddled by controversy and ugly rhetoric, it is becoming increasingly important to evaluate the implications of each nominee’s policy from an objective standpoint. While Trump’s healthcare policy plan adds to the federal deficit far less than Clinton’s, his plan would also terminate health care coverage for many Americans and reverse the progress made by Obamacare.