The road to the White House is in full swing. The border, inflation, wars in Israel and Ukraine, plus the trials and investigations of former President Donald J. Trump have dominated headlines thus far, leaving discussions on healthcare in the back seat.
A November ABC News/Ipsos poll found healthcare to be the second most important issue for Americans behind the economy. Health insurance and drug pricing, abortion access, and gender-affirming care for minors are a few healthcare issues key to this election cycle.
With the departure of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis from the Republican Presidential Primary on Sunday, the race for the Republican nomination to take on President Joe Biden is between Trump and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. Also waiting in the wings as an Independent candidate is Robert Kennedy Jr., who is polling at 21% against Biden (36%) and Trump (44%) in a newly released Harvard-Harris poll.
Healthnews dove into each candidates future plans and current statements regarding healthcare for the American people. Here is how each candidate’s healthcare priorities stack up:
On January 10, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed more than 20 million Americans had signed up for an Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace plan during 2023’s open enrollment period. The number is a record for Americans obtaining a plan on the HealthCare.gov website.
In a second term, President Biden is likely to build on the momentum of the ACA, highlighting its importance in allowing more Americans to obtain health insurance plans at a low cost. In a White House release, Biden highlighted that Republicans pose a threat to the ACA’s growth.
They want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, just as my predecessor tried and failed to do, which would strip these 20 million people of their coverage, end Medicaid coverage for millions more, and return to the days when insurance companies had free reign to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions and charge women more than men.Biden
The Biden administration champions lower insulin prices as one of its victories in providing lower prescription drug prices. The Inflation Reduction Act paved the way for seniors with Medicare Part D coverage and diabetes to see their insulin capped at $35. The legislative decision motivated Eli Lilly and Company to lower their insulin prices by 70% for those not belonging to any Medicare plan.
Another focus for the Biden administration is the issue of abortion. An ad released by the Biden campaign on Sunday showcases Dr. Austin Dennard, who was unable to acquire an abortion in Texas after learning there was no choice for her baby’s survival. Following the repeal of Roe V. Wade by the Supreme Court, President Biden signed an executive order protecting access to medication abortion. He encourages Congress to pass laws protecting abortion protections under Roe V. Wade.
Another focus for the Biden administration is protecting gender-affirming care. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 22 states have passed a law or ban that impacts gender-affirming care for those under 18 years old. In March, the Biden White House issued a statement of support for transgender youth on Transgender Day of Visibility, emphasizing the importance of affirming and supporting transgender youth.
On his website, Trump outlines his healthcare agenda if elected to a second term and also points to accomplishments in his first term, with one of those being the Right to Try. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the Right to Try Act is a way for patients to obtain investigational treatment options after being diagnosed with life-threatening diseases or conditions and are not able to participate in a clinical trial.
Trump’s website also highlights his previous administration's ability to increase “competition in the health insurance market.” This statement likely points to the administration's ability to lower Medicare Advantage premiums. On September 24, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services revealed in a release that Medicare Advantage Plan premiums for 2021 were expected to decline 34.2% from 2017.
As President, Trump appointed three Supreme Court Justices who played a vital role in the reversal of Roe V. Wade. In a Fox News town hall on January 10, Trump affirmed to a voter that he was the one who was instrumental in the Supreme Court decision and is a pro-life candidate. Trump has been unwilling to state on multiple occasions if he would support an abortion ban at the federal level. In the early stages of the 2024 campaign, Trump criticized Governor DeSantis and Florida for its six-week abortion ban.
In a video posted to Trump’s Truth Social account last year, he criticized Biden for his stance on gender-affirming care for minors. As the 47th president, Trump said in a campaign video that he would sign an executive order that ceases the ability of federal agencies to promote programs relating to sex and gender transitioning.
On Day 1, I will revoke Joe Biden’s cruel policies on so-called gender-affirming care. Ridiculous. A process that includes giving kids puberty blockers, mutilating their physical appearance, and ultimately performing surgery on minor children.Trump
Robert Kennedy Jr.
Kennedy’s talking points around healthcare differ from Trump and Biden. Kennedy is against the COVID-19 vaccine and has criticized former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, for promoting remdesivir during the COVID-19 pandemic over other medications like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
In a video on his YouTube page, Kennedy said his goal is to significantly drop the level of chronic diseases obtained by young Americans. He mentioned the growth in the rate of children being diagnosed with autism as a major concern that needs to be highlighted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to Autism Speaks, one in 36 children are diagnosed with Autism as of 2023. In 2020, that number was one in 54. In another YouTube campaign video, Kennedy asked why the NIH is not exploring the topic.
What's happened over the last 50 years is the NIH has shifted its focus and it doesn’t do that kind of science. It is supposed to tell us what is making us sick. What is the threat? What it does is try to monetize science for the pharmaceutical industry.Kennedy
In a Preferred Health article published in the summer of 2023, Kennedy links the rise of diseases such as ADD, ADHD, speech delay, language delay, tics, sleep disorders, Tourette syndrome, narcolepsy, and autism to vaccines. He also says glyphosate, perfluorooctanoic acid, flame retardants, cell phones, and Wi-Fi may also be “potential culprits.”
When it comes to issues such as abortion and gender-affirming care, Kennedy holds more mainstream positions. He believes abortion is a women’s right and supports no legislation promoting its outlaw. As for gender-affirming care, Kennedy did not say if gender-affirming care should be banned for transgender children in a 2023 interview with Fox Carolina News. However, he believes individuals who choose to transition should be respected and not made second-class citizens.
During her time in South Carolina, Haley was strongly against the ACA signed into law by President Barack Obama. Also, the Palmetto State is one of 10 states that are yet to pass the Medicaid expansion under the ACA. On Haley’s campaign website, repealing Obamacare is not listed as an agenda priority.
While Biden, Trump, and Kennedy have all expressed support for funding Medicare and Social Security, Haley has a different view. Americans may receive Social Security as early as 62 years old, while Medicare benefits kick in at 65 years. In an interview with TODAY, Haley said she would reform entitlement programs.
Everyone that has been promised money, they get it, we don’t take it from anybody. But these new ones coming in, they know it is going to be broke by the time they get there. Those are the ones we fix, the younger generation, we redo a new system on how they are going to get it.Haley
For abortion, Haley has called a national abortion ban unrealistic due to the 60 votes it would require in the U.S. Senate. Haley’s website describes her as “one of the most pro-life Governors in America” during her time in South Carolina. As Governor, Haley signed legislation that outlawed abortion at 20 weeks. She has supported the Supreme Court’s reversal decision on Roe v. Wade.
Like Kennedy and Trump, Haley is strongly against transgender women competing in girl’s sports. Haley is also opposed to gender-affirming care for minors, stating in a ABC 4 News interview that gender transitioning should be a decision made after turning 18 years old.
As the primary's continue, the anticipation of what else the presidential candidates say to the public — and each other — will be high in the crucial upcoming months.
- White House. Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris administration announces new actions to lower health care and prescription drug costs by promoting competition.
- White House. Fact Sheet: White House honors transgender day of visibility.
- CMS. Under the Biden-Harris administration, over 20 million selected affordable health coverage in ACA marketplace since start of open enrollment period, a record high.
- White House. Statement from President Joe Biden on historic 20 million enrollees in Affordable Care Act health care.
- Trump Campaign. Issues.
- FDA. Right to try.
- CMS. Trump administration announces historically low medicare advantage premiums and new payment model to make insulin affordable again for seniors.
- Autism Speaks. Autism statistics and facts.
- Haley Campaign. Record of results.