I started a series on grading President Joe Biden at 100 days on April 15th. Part I reviewed the Biden Administration’s response to the Covid pandemic; Part II dealt with activities in other areas related to health care. This is Part III on Unkept Promises, which I committed to last you heard from me.
But I have a problem. There aren’t any Unkept Promises for me to address.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there aren’t “Broken Promises” in this administration. The GOP certainly has a list– published on the eve of the 100th day. (Senator Mitch McConnell, among many others in the party, are most critical of President Biden’s failure to unify opposing sides in Congress as well as the nation.) ABC News had a more favorable accounting on April 26th; CBS news has a bit more detail on April 28th. If you want to trace the pledges of Candidate Biden, I recommend Politifact’s Biden Promise Tracker, which supplies the quote and the status of those promises made. (Note: actions by the White House in the last two weeks have made all these lists somewhat outdated.)
But Fontenotes deals only with health care– and in any of the lists just named (even the GOP’s), the Biden Administration is pretty clean in the arena of health care.
With one possible exception.
Where is the Public Option?
“I’ll not only restore Obamacare; I’ll build on it.”
-Joe Biden [11/2/20]
PolitiFact grades this pledge as “In the Works” and provides details about the increased access to the ACA Exchanges contained in the “American Rescue Plan” [ARP] (the $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed in March). PolitiFact also points to the incentives in the ARP for the remaining 12 states to expand Medicaid and subsidies for people insured through COBRA as “wins” for the Biden Presidency’s first 100 days. The only negative in this accounting is the “family glitch” problem which the ARP does not fix.
But what about Joe Biden’s Public Option to create a Medicare-type plan available for purchase on the ACA Exchanges? Isn’t that what Candidate Biden meant when he said he would grow the ACA? Listen for yourself here.
Will the Public Option Be President Biden’s Next Act?
There are two White House proposed bills currently working their way through the legislative process. However, neither the American Families Plan nor the American Jobs Plan include the Public Option. That omission has not gone unnoticed. As I write this, many in the Democratic party, particularly Senator Bernie Sanders, are trying to get Medicare reforms (in his case lowering the age of eligibility) included in these pending legislative efforts.
Why would Joe Biden pull his punch on including his signature “fix” to the Affordable Care Act? Why wouldn’t he use the likelihood of Reconciliation as the vehicle to pass at least one of the plans (requiring no Republican votes) as an opportunity to get the Public Option ensconced as part of the ACA?
Could it be because it was Democrats (AKA Joe Lieberman) that killed the Public Option back in 2009? [For more on that, see Fontenotes No 25]
In 2021, the passage of the Public Option is hardly a strong bet, even if there are only Democrats at the table. Why would President Biden put the rest of his massive legislative proposals at risk?
Could the Public Option Come Back Next Year or Beyond?
It might be that the Public Option lies dormant in the first year of the Presidency; it is possible (although predictions say not likely) that the 2022 mid-term elections could allow for a wider Democratic margin. It is possible the mood of the country, the post-Covid realities of health care and other factors play into President Biden’s hand.
We do not know at this point.
More to the point, Joe Biden promised a Public Option alternative in the ACA Exchanges, but not immediately. This pledge does not fall within the “100-day” focus of this 3-part series.
For astute watchers, other promises not yet met- most importantly controlling drug prices– were also not “100-day” vows and are not part of this accounting.
Fear Not! Fontenotes will spend a lot of time in the next four years reviewing all of President Biden’s pledges and how his administration impacts our health care system.
For now- on day 120- it’s time to let the 100 Day President Biden Grading rest.
Want to Know More?
The American Families Plan and the American Jobs Act are both massive pieces of proposed legislation. The White House released “Fact Sheets” on both. These include brief descriptions of all the bills’ elements that make it easier to comprehend the details- and enormity- of each.
You can find those Fact Sheets with these links:
The American Families Plan [Here]
The American Jobs Plan [Here]