Joe Biden's healthcare plan proposes reboot of Obamacare - a decade after it was passed

Andrew Buncombe

Joe Biden has proposed a reboot of Obamacare a decade after it was first introduced, his latest moderate policy proposal likely to get little support from progressives in the his party.

While several of his Democratic rivals for the 2020 nomination, in particular Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, supporting providing universal health care by making use of the country's national health system - so-called Medicare for All - the former vice president wants to reform and improve the system already in place.

“I understand the appeal of Medicare for All,” the 76-year-old Mr Biden said in a video posted on Monday morning.

“But folks supporting it should be clear that it means getting rid of Obamacare. And I'm not for that.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare and signed into law in March 2010, was one of the landmark pieces of legislation passed by Barack Obama and Mr Biden. It helped provide health insurance for an additional 25m people.

Donald Trump campaigned for office vowing to scrap the scheme but has failed, partly because and other other Republicans have no alternative plan in place.

The late senator John McCain famously voted against scrapping Obamacare, something that earned him Mr Trump’s ire until the day he died.

Mr Biden, who has positioned himself to the centre left of the two-dozen Democrats seeking the nomination, released his plan as the party grapples with how best to appeal to voters in 2020 over healthcare - an issue that the 2018 midterm election underscored as being of major concern to the public.

Mr Sanders, the senator from Vermont who unveiled an updated Medicare for All bill in the Senate earlier this spring, is poised to deliver a major speech making his case for his plan on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, California senator Kamala Harris, who has similarly backed a single-payer, government-run health programme, teased the upcoming roll out of her plan in front of a crowd in New Hampshire on Sunday.

Speaking in New Hampshire over the weekend, Mr Biden defended a more modest approach, that built on Obamacare.

“We should not be starting from scratch. We should be building from what we have. There's no time to wait,” Mr Biden said.

He said that under his plan, if “you like your employer-based insurance, you get to keep it”. Under other leading Democrats’ plans, he said, “you lose it, period”.

Mr Biden's plan would launch a “public option” that his campaign says would be “like Medicare”, with primary care covered with no co-payments.

His proposal would make existing subsidies more generous and make more middle-income households eligible for them.

Mr Biden’s campaign has said his proposal would cost $750bn over 10 years. It would be paid for by raising the top marginal rate of income tax to 39.6 per cent, which was where it stood before the Republican major tax cuts of 2017.

Additional reporting by Associated Press