Key health care recommendations included in Biden-Sanders task force proposals

Last week the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force laid out a series of policy recommendations for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. The task force launched in May in an effort to join the moderate and progressive wings of the Democratic party and establish united policy proposals.

The 110-page report covers 6 key policy areas: climate change, criminal justice, the economy, education, health care, and immigration.



U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who endorsed Sanders during his presidential run and is the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All bill in the House, co-chaired the health care effort. Some policy proposals moved further to the left of Biden’s original platform, while other proposals, like a single-payer Medicare for All system, were left out.

The list of health-related policy proposals includes:

A public option & expanded coverage

The list of recommendations includes the creation of a public option through the ACA marketplace. As defined by the taskforce, “The public option will provide at least one plan choice without deductibles, will be administered by the traditional Medicare program, not private companies, and will cover all primary care without any copayments and control costs for other treatments by negotiating prices with doctors and hospitals, just like Medicare does on behalf of older people.”

Low income Americans not eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled in the public option, but they have will have the option to opt out. In non-expansion states, the 4.8 million adults who would have been eligible for Medicaid will have the public option available to them without premiums.

To further expand coverage, the task force also recommends that individuals be able to enroll in Medicare when they turn 60, rather than having to wait until they turn 65.

“We also know that finally covering every American through the public and private insurance system alone is not enough to guarantee universal access,” reads the proposal. “That is why Democrats support doubling investments in community health centers and rural health clinics, including increased support for dental care, mental health care, and substance use services like medication-assisted treatment.”

Drug pricing and health care costs

To reduce the health care cost burden, the task force rolled out several recommendations related specifically to bringing down drug prices. They recommend empowering Medicare to be able to negotiate prescription drug prices for all public and private purchasers no matter where they get their coverage. They will also ensure that the price of brand-name and outlier generic drugs do not rise faster than the inflation rate and will cap the out-of-pocket drug costs for older Americans.

To reduce health care costs generally, the task force states that Democrats will ensure that no one pays more than 8.5% of their income in premiums. They will also ban the practice of surprise medical billing.

“We will work to increase price transparency in the health care system across all payers, and reduce paperwork through uniform medical billing. And we will vigorously use antitrust laws to fight against mega-mergers in the hospital, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries that would raise prices for patients by undermining market competition,” the recommendations state.

Racial, gender, and geographic health inequities

“Democrats are committed to eliminating health disparities by race, ethnicity, gender, and geography,” reads the recommendation. “We recognize it is not enough to have a commitment: We must have a plan. That is why Democrats will launch a sustained, government-wide effort, with leadership at the highest levels, to eliminate racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic gaps in insurance rates, access to quality care, and health outcomes.”

Specifically, this effort will look to address the social determinants of health such as housing, hunger, transportation, and pollution, which contribute to worse health outcomes for communities of color and low-income Americans.

Democrats, it says, will ensure adequate funding for federal data collection and analysis so that disparities in access, outcomes, and coverage are better understood.

They will also focus on restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, extend ACA coverage for Dreamers, and ensure the CDC has resources to study gun violence as a public health issue.

The entire policy recommendations document is available here.