Joe Biden’s message on Covid-19 is simple: “It did not have to be this way.”
That is arguably the theme of Biden’s entire presidential campaign. But it is especially relevant to health care, where the coronavirus response and the conservative crusade to overturn Obamacare combine to demonstrate the vivid contrast between the president we have and the president Joe Biden promises to be.
It is a distinction Biden sounded eager to draw as I listened to the speech he gave Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware.
“Month after month, as other leaders in other countries took the necessary steps to get the virus under control, Donald Trump failed us,” Biden said. “Month after month, as many of us urged him to step up and do his job, he failed us.”
I asked some experts how Biden’s proposed Covid-19 response differs from what the current federal government has done. They pointed to a few specific provisions in his plans:
- Establishing a public-private “pandemic testing board” to scale up and allocate testing across the country. (“This would deal with one of the problems we still seem to have, that supply and demand are out of sync,” says Jennifer Kates with the Kaiser Family Foundation.)
- Creating a state and local government emergency fund that would pay for medical supplies, hiring more health care workers, and providing overtime pay for certain essential workers.
- Eliminating cost-sharing for Covid-19 testing and treatment — and changing the law so that provision would apply to future public health emergencies.
- Setting minimum standards for the number of testing sites in each state, including 10 mobile or drive-through sites.
- Establishing a national public health jobs corps, which would employ at least 100,000 people to do contact tracing.
Biden’s plan is detailed, but the real differences on coronavirus between him and Trump start at the more conceptual level.
“The big differences are the emphasis on science and experts, versus politics and politicians, and more coordination and leadership at the federal level,” Kates said.