Biden’s ability to work with Congress — or not — may determine whether he is able to implement some of the key components of his coronavirus action plan, which includes:
- Providing free COVID-19 testing for all Americans
- Hiring 100,000 contact tracers
- Eliminating out-of-pocket expenses for coronavirus treatment
- Delivering “sufficient” PPE for essential workers
- Supporting science-backed vaccines and medical treatments being developed
- Requiring the reopening of businesses, workplaces, and schools only after “sufficient” reductions in community transmission — under evidence-based protocols put forward by the CDC
- Giving emergency paid leave for workers dislocated by the pandemic and more financial aid for workers, families, and small businesses
- Shoring up safeguards to protect at-risk Americans, including older people
- Boosting pay for health care workers on the front lines
Biden has not detailed how he would pay for many of these, beyond promising to force wealthy Americans to “pay their fair share” of taxes to help. He has proposed a tax increase on Americans making more than $400,000 a year, which would require congressional approval.
Antos says he expects Biden’s proposed COVID-19 action plan to be virtually the same as Trump’s in two areas: efforts to develop a vaccine and antiviral treatments.
The administration has spent some $225 million on COVID-19 testing efforts, with a particular focus on rural areas.
Trump launched Operation Warp Speed to fast-track a vaccine. As part of that, the federal government has contracted with six drug companies, spending nearly $11 billion. The operation aims to provide at least 300 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by January 2021.
Antos would like to see “a more sophisticated approach to social distancing” from the president-elect that takes into account the different challenges facing Americans depending on their income, work situation, and other factors during the pandemic.
“There are a lot of people in this country where working from home is fine and their jobs are secure,” he notes. “It’s the person who used to work at a restaurant that closed, it’s the line worker at a factory that has severely cut back its hours. It’s basically lower-middle-class people, low-income people, middle-class people, and it’s not the elite.
“And the policies have not given enough consideration to the fact that their circumstances and their tradeoffs would differ from the tradeoffs of somebody who doesn’t have anything to worry about economically.
“So, what we need is a more supple policy [that] will give people the information they need and give them the financial support that they also need … so they can make good decisions for themselves and their families. And we basically haven’t done that.”
Obamacare on the blocks?
The Supreme Court’s decision to take up another case seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act could hand Biden’s health agenda a major setback — and put the medical care for millions of Americans in jeopardy.
On Nov. 10, the high court will hear oral arguments on a lawsuit that would strike down all of Obamacare. A decision is not expected until next year.
The court has previously upheld the 2010 law, which Biden helped usher through Congress as vice president. But the addition of right-leaning Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the bench last month gives the court a clear conservative majority that could mean the end of Obamacare, legal experts say.
Republicans have opposed the law since its passage, but they have been unable to muster the votes to repeal it, or to pass an alternative
Antos, from the American Enterprise Institute, notes conservatives believe the law has increased costs for health care and insurance over the past decade, in part because of its protections for Americans with preexisting conditions and requiring insurers to provide comprehensive “gold-plated” policies.
“It’s driven up costs, offers plans that are not very strong, put high-risk folks into the same [insurance pool], which has increased costs for everyone, the employer mandate … these are all the reasons,” he says.
The Supreme Court isn’t expected to deliver a decision on the Affordable Care Act before the middle of next year. But the uncertainty will likely push back Biden’s proposals to expand on the law.