Biden Proposes Universal Medicaid Coverage

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June 17, 2019

2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden said Monday that as president he would expand access to Medicaid to the entire country.

Speaking at the Poor People’s Campaign Presidential Forum in Washington, D.C., Biden offered up a sweeping but unspecific proposal for health-care reform.

"I think everyone’s entitled to have total health care," Biden said. "And what I would do is make sure that every single person — as I propose — every single person in the United States has access to Medicaid right off the bat."

Medicaid is a means-tested federal and state program that provides health coverage to Americans with limited income. The Affordable Care Act passed under the Obama administration required that states expand Medicaid coverage to people with incomes up to 133% of the poverty line, but the Supreme Court later struck down that requirement.

Biden’s remarks come after other Democratic candidates have taken up progressive health-care platforms. Most of the candidates advocate for universal coverage in some form. Biden’s recent proposal does not go as far as Sen. Bernie Sanders’s plan, however, which calls for the elimination of private health insurance companies.

Biden had previously held a moderate position on health coverage, declining to explicitly endorse a universal platform, though he did propose an optional Medicare buy-in. The position taken up on Monday, if he doesn’t walk it back, represents a significant departure from Biden’s prior stance on health care.