Biden Wins White House, Pledges to Prevent Deaths from COVID-19

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has won the 2020 presidential election, an outcome likely to result in changes to the healthcare landscape in the U.S.

The Associated Press called the election for Biden late Saturday morning after Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), won 20 electoral votes from the state of Pennsylvania, putting them over the 270 needed to win.

On Twitter, Biden said he was “honored that you have chosen me to lead our country” and that “I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.” President Trump’s re-election campaign, meanwhile, held a press conference in Philadelphia, with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, saying that lawsuits will be filed beginning on Monday related to alleged problems with vote-counting in Pennsylvania and other states. The president had not conceded the election to Biden as of early Saturday afternoon.

The COVID-19 pandemic was clearly on Biden’s mind during a speech on Friday night, when the election had not been called but things were trending in his direction. “The death toll is approaching 240,000 lives lost to this virus,” said Biden. “That’s 240,000 empty chairs at kitchen tables and dining room tables all across America. We’ll never be able to measure all that pain and the loss, the suffering that so many families have experienced. We know something about what it feels …like to lose someone. And I want them to know they’re not alone. Our hearts break with you. I want everyone, everyone to know on day one we’re going to put our plan to control this virus into action. We can’t save any of the lives lost … But we can save a lot of lives in the months ahead.”

“We have serious problems to deal with from COVID to the economy to racial justice to climate change,” he added. “We don’t have anymore time to waste on partisan warfare … and more than that. We’ve such an incredible opportunity to build the future we want for our kids and our grandkids.”

Healthcare — and in particular, keeping the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — was a big part of Biden’s campaign platform. Biden’s plan calls for keeping the ACA in place, but also adding a “public option” that Biden says will be “like Medicare.” “As in Medicare, the Biden public option will reduce costs for patients by negotiating lower prices from hospitals and other healthcare providers,” Biden said on his campaign website. “It also will better coordinate among all of a patient’s doctors to improve the efficacy and quality of their care, and cover primary care without any co-payments. And it will bring relief to small businesses struggling to afford coverage for their employees.”

Other points in Biden’s healthcare proposal included:

  • Stop “surprise billing.” “The Biden Plan will bar healthcare providers from charging patients out-of-network rates when the patient doesn’t have control over which provider the patient sees (for example, during a hospitalization),” according to the campaign website.
  • Tackle market concentration across our healthcare system. Biden asserts that lack of competition in the healthcare industry is driving up prices for consumers, and that this situation can be improved through use of existing antitrust authority.
  • Repeal existing laws barring Medicare from negotiating prices with drug companies, an exception Biden calls “outrageous.” “Because Medicare covers so many Americans, it has significant leverage to negotiate lower prices for its beneficiaries,” the campaign notes. “And it does so for hospitals and other providers participating in the program, but not drug manufacturers. Drug manufacturers not facing any competition, therefore, can charge whatever price they choose to set. There’s no justification for this except the power of prescription drug lobbying.”

Healthcare groups wasted no time congratulating the new president. “The APA congratulates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for their successful election, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the Biden administration on concrete initiatives to increase access to high-quality mental healthcare for our patients,” American Psychiatric Association president Jeffrey Geller, MD, MPH, said in a statement. “The APA has worked diligently this past year to expand the use of telehealth to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have pushed hard for enforcement of mental health parity and expanded funding for federal agencies tasked with addressing the mental health of the nation. Our work will continue as the impacts of COVID will be felt for years.”

“As I watched results flow in since Tuesday, I have been incredibly struck by just how divided this country is,” Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United, said in a statement. “We have much healing and coalition building to do. Ending the HIV epidemic is a bipartisan effort, and I encourage the incoming Biden administration to focus on it as a way of building support across party lines.”

HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute executive director Carl Schmid noted that during his campaign, “Biden committed to ending HIV by 2025, five years earlier than the Trump administration’s current initiative to end HIV … We look forward to working with him and his administration on efforts to end HIV in the United States.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) also took a bipartisan approach. “The AAMC looks forward to working with President-elect Biden, the new administration, and the new Congress to defeat the coronavirus pandemic, safely reopen businesses and schools, and stabilize the economy,” AAMC president and CEO David Skorton, MD, said in a statement. “As a non-partisan association, we also will continue to provide our clinical and scientific expertise and work with the current administration and Congress to help reduce the severity and scope of the pandemic, speed the development of effective treatments and cures, and ensure that the needs of marginalized individuals and communities are met.”

Washington Correspondent Shannon Firth contributed to this story.

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    Joyce Frieden oversees MedPage Today’s Washington coverage, including stories about Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, healthcare trade associations, and federal agencies. She has 35 years of experience covering health policy. Follow