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Analysis

Healthcare Dominates Final Trump-Biden Presidential Debate

By Jack O'Brien  
   October 22, 2020

Just like the first presidential debate and the only vice presidential debate, the conversation again centered on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden faced off in the final 2020 presidential debate Thursday night, where healthcare once again played a prominent role in the discussion.

The debate, which took place at Belmont University in Nashville, was held less than two weeks before election day.

Just like the first presidential debate and the only vice presidential debate, the conversation again centered on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and other healthcare-related topics.

Below are the healthcare highlights of the final presidential election of the 2020 election cycle.

Related: COVID-19 Response, ACA Take Center Stage at First Trump-Biden Presidential Debate

Related: Pence, Harris Spar Over Future of Healthcare Policy at VP Debate

COVID Blame game and the coming months

Trump said that a potential coronavirus vaccine is "ready" and could be distributed in the coming weeks.

When asked about which vaccine was the leading contender in a follow up question from moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Trump referenced Johnson & Johnson's efforts. He added that he expects 100 million vials will be available for "easy distribution" of the vaccine.

Related: Nearly 4 in 5 Adults Say Healthcare Policy Will Influence How They Vote

Trump spoke about his recovery from COVID-19, for which he was treated at Walter Reed Medical Center and released earlier this month. He said that he "learned a lot" and added that some therapeutics, like an antibody cocktail produced by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., aided in his recovery while also claiming he's now "immune."

Like in the prior debate, Trump criticized Biden's oversight of the H1N1 response in 2009 and said that all the Democratic nominee talks about are economic shutdowns to handle the virus.

Trump, when asked by Welker about reported comments from earlier this week that he called Dr. Anthony Fauci an 'idiot' and a 'disaster,' walked back part of his criticisms but also said that he made "mistakes" earlier in the crisis.

Meanwhile, Biden said Trump has no comprehensive plan to deal with the spread of the virus, argued that the more accurate timeline for achieving a vaccine would occur in mid-2021, and warned that the country is about go into a "dark winter."

If elected, Biden said he would encourage Americans to wear masks, provide better funding for COVID-19 testing capabilities, and have a plan for reopening the economy safely, adding that he was going to "shut down the virus, not the country."

Related: Majority of Voters Tilt Toward Biden as Health Issues Weigh Heavily

What to do with the ACA?

Both candidates were asked about what their healthcare plan would be if the ACA was struck down in the ongoing California v. Texas case, which will be heard by the Supreme Court on November 10.

Trump said he terminated the worst part of the ACA and that his administration has run the program "as well as you can," but added that "no matter how well you run it, it's no good." He also promised that his administration would unveil a "beautiful new healthcare plan" that would protect people with pre-existing conditions. 

He also warned that if elected, Biden would embrace "socialized medicine," introduce a public option that would harm Medicare and Social Security and endanger employer-sponsored healthcare coverage for 180 million Americans.

Meanwhile, Biden said his healthcare plan would be based on the ACA with a public option as a supplemental element. He said that the policy would provide competition for insurers, allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with insurers, and that no one would lose employer-sponsored coverage under his plan.

"People should have the right to affordable healthcare. Period." Biden said.

Biden charged that Trump would not protect patients with pre-existing conditions and that the public option wouldn't lead to a government takeover of healthcare. He said his plan would cost $750 billion over 10 years, and address high premiums, drug prices, and surprise billing.

Related: Outnumbered on High Court Nomination, Democrats Campaign for a Different Vote

Jack O'Brien is the finance editor at HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The debate, which took place at Belmont University in Nashville, was held less than two weeks before election day.

Trump said that a potential coronavirus vaccine is "ready" and could be distributed in the coming weeks.

"People should have the right to affordable healthcare. Period." Biden said.


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