US Election 2020

What's Donald Trump's plan for Medicare?

With covid-19 cases on the rise healthcare provision is a major issue in the presidential election and Trump has big plans for the vaccine and drug prices.

What's Donald Trump's plan for Medicare?
SPENCER PLATT AFP

 The President has been talking up the prospect of a new healthcare plan for the duration of his time in office but nothing concrete has so far emerged. As Americans go to the polls on 3 November with a second wave of covid-19 now in full swing, healthcare provision will likely be a major factor for any undecided voters.

Back in August Donald Trump pledged to make cuts to Medicare funding if he wins a second term, which would likely lead to a narrowing of provision. He said: "If I'm victorious on November 3rd, I plan to forgive these [payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare] and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax."

But what exactly would Trump do with Medicare? Here’s what to expect from another four years of his presidency…

What is Medicare?

Medicare was founded in 1966 as a national health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older, and for those with certain disabilities and serious ailments such as kidney failure. Introduced by the Social Security Administration it is now one of America’s most utilised social programmes for seniors and currently covers over 62 million people.

Designed to prevent the elderly being unable to pay for treatment, Medicare Part A (hospital coverage) is provided for by a government-backed trust fund. The economic downturn caused by the pandemic has made the trust fund insolvent (meaning that its outgoing expenses now exceed its incoming revenue) so whoever wins the White House will likely have to make some urgent changes to make sure that the vulnerable are cared for.

Trump pledges to get better deals from drug companies

Even after paying into the Medicare system throughout their lives through taxes and Social Security payments, some treatments and drugs still require users to pay for them. During his first term Trump lifted the so-called ‘gag orders’ that were preventing pharmacists advising patients of cheaper alternatives, and capped insulin costs for some users. Publically, Trump has insisted that he does not intend to make cuts to Medicare provision but his March budget announcement revealed plans for a $1.5 trillion spending cut over the next decade.

Going forward, the President has said that he will send $200 payment cards to 33 million individuals to help with the cost of drugs, although no concrete plans have yet been outlined. Trump would also like to see consumers able to import prescriptions from overseas, thus expanding the market and hopefully bringing down prices across the board.

Medicare and covid-19

On Friday 30 October the US reported a new record number of daily coronavirus cases, with 98,000 more Americans confirmed to have contracted the virus. Trump has repeatedly claimed that a vaccine is just around the corner and, with clinical trials into at least three of them looking promising, focus will soon switch to the cost and availability of the treatments.

Earlier this week Politico reported that the Trump administration is set to announce that Medicare (along with Medicaid) will cover all out-of-pocket costs for the covid-19 vaccine. That would be a major boon for senior citizens who are the group most at-risk to the virus, and may win Trump some much-need favour with that demographic before the election.

Here's what Democrat nominee Joe Biden has said about his plans for Medicare.