Hillary Clinton has been working to expand healthcare coverage since 1979, when she chaired the Arkansas Rural Health Advisory Committee and focused on increasing healthcare access to rural parts of the state. Since then, Clinton has continued the fight by establishing the Children’s Health Insurance Program, introducing legislation to reduce the cost of health insurance expenses, and, following 9/11, fighting to fund the recovery of first responders at Ground Zero.
Now, as a Democratic presidential candidate for the 2016 election, Clinton has proposed that she will increase access to affordable healthcare for everyone, primarily by defending and building upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA). During the Democratic presidential debate April 14 in Brooklyn, Clinton said, “So rather than letting the Republicans repeal it or rather than starting all over again, trying to throw the country into another really contentious debate, let’s make the Affordable Care Act work for everybody… let’s get to 100 percent coverage, let’s get the cost down, and let’s guarantee healthcare.”1
The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2010 in an effort to increase universal healthcare coverage. Since then, more than 17 million Americans have been able to acquire health insurance, though over 30 million remain uninsured. In addition to expanding healthcare coverage through the ACA, Clinton also plans to cut the costs of prescription drugs and defend Planned Parenthood in an effort to provide all women access to reproductive healthcare.
Expanding the ACA
Clinton plans to expand upon the Affordable Care Act by making premiums more affordable and cutting out-of-pocket costs for consumers acquiring health insurance. Her plan proposes a tax credit of up to $5,000 per family to offset a portion of excessive out-of-pocket and premium costs above 5 percent of their income. She proposes enhancing current premium tax credits available through the exchanges, so that those eligible will pay a smaller percentage of their income. Families purchasing on the exchanges will not have to spend more than 8.5 percent of their income for premiums.
In addition, Clinton plans to broaden the scope of Medicaid coverage across the nation to enhance relief for the lowest-income residents. Following President Obama’s proposal, Clinton intends to allow any state adhering to the Medicaid expansion to benefit from a 100 percent match for the first three years. At least 16 million people, or half of all those uninsured, are eligible for essentially free Medicaid coverage or exchange coverage for as little as $100 a month or less. Clinton plans to invest $500 million per year in a campaign to simplify the enrollment process and ensure that more people are aware of their enrollment options.2
Clinton also intends to extend healthcare access through the Affordable Care Act exchanges to all families, regardless of their immigration status. This largely differs from Donald Trump’s view, who aims to reduce the amount of foreign employees in the U.S. workforce and repatriate foreign migrants if elected president. Trump asserts that U.S. veterans should be a priority, and was quick to criticize Clinton’s plan.3
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, about 14 million illegal immigrants are living in the United States. American taxpayers pay about $5,000 per year for every person enrolled in Obamacare. The addition of just 10 million current illegal immigrants to Obamacare would cost taxpayers at least $50 billion per year. This means that American taxpayers may have to divert funding from their relatives to pay for the healthcare of increasingly more foreign workers.
According to a 2012 study by Gallup, at least 150 million foreigners would like to migrate to the United States. If one-seventh of the estimated 150 million foreigners end up immigrating to the United States, the 10-year bill would increase to $1.5 trillion.3
“Clinton’s plan may not be as ambitious as Sanders’,” stated an April 15 article on Forbes.com.4 “She’s not trying to spend an additional $28 to $36 trillion. But that obscures a more important fact: that when it comes to Obamacare, Clinton has boxed herself in with a series of toothless and contradictory proposals.” The Forbes article argued that in order for Clinton to make the ACA work, she will need to increase President Obama’s fines for those failing to buy Obamacare-based plans, but she knows that doing so will be detrimental in a general election. Forbes added that as a result, Clinton has proposed incremental half-measures that will have no meaningful impact on the cost of Obamacare-sponsored health coverage.
On the other hand, a Feb. 12 U.S. News & World Report article noted, “In addition to the political reality is the policy reality that the country does not need to go through another overhaul of its healthcare system. The Affordable Care Act is still in its infancy. Although the law passed in 2010, the mandates that are key to its reforms only went into effect within the last two years. It was also severely hampered when the Supreme Court ruled against the mandatory Medicaid expansion in 2012. However, even with all the mistakes the administration committed during the law’s implementation and the other setbacks and delays it has faced, it has succeeded in decreasing the numbers of the uninsured. Gaps in coverage remain, but as Clinton suggests, the successes of the law can be built upon to shrink those gaps. There is no need to dismantle what is already working.”5
Ultimately, the polls will indicate whether or not Americans are satisfied with Clinton’s proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act and believe in her ability to ensure universal healthcare coverage.
- The Washington Post. The Brooklyn Democratic Debate Transcript, Annotated. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/04/14/the-brooklyn-democratic-debate-transcript-annotated/
- Hillary for America. Health Care. https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/health-care/
- Breitbart. Hillary Clinton Wants to Give Americans’ Healthcare to Millions of Illegals, Says Chelsea Clinton.http://www.breitbart.com/immigration/2016/03/18/chelsea-clinton-offers-free-obamacare-to-millions-of-illegals/
- Forbes. Hillary Clinton’s Healthcare Plan Is Just as Impractical as Bernie Sanders’.http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2016/04/15/why-bernie-sanders-health-care-plan-is-just-as-practical-as-hillary-clintons/#5ef89ac745c8
- U.S. News & World Report. Clinton Gets It on Health Care. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/opinion-blog/articles/2016-02-12/hillary-clinton-gets-it-on-health-care-bernie-sanders-doesnt