The Future of Medicare Depends on Who Wins in 2020

Social Security card and Medicare enrollment form

It’s a presidential election year, and in presidential election years we always like to take a look at some finance-related issues and what each of the two candidates have proposed related to it. A few weeks ago, we took a look at what taxes would look like under Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s plan.

In this post, we’ll take a look at another hot topic – Medicare – and how both Biden and incumbent Donald Trump plan to manage the elder insurance program moving forward.

Why is Medicare Important?

First, let’s take a closer look at why this is such an important issue. Simply put, Medicare is a program that’s underfunded as it is, and in even more of a bind moving forward due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent recession. In fact, the funds that help support Medicare Part A, or hospital coverage, could be empty within just a few years. Medicare Part A doesn’t have premiums, though Part B and Part D do. Hence, determining a way to sustainably fund Part A is extremely important for the long-term wellbeing of the overall program.

In a few weeks, the Supreme Court is also scheduled to consider overturning the Affordable Care Act, and while it’s not clear how exactly this might impact Medicare, it’s believed that a trickle-down effect would increase costs in out-of-pocket spending for seniors.

Biden’s Plan

First things first: former Vice President Joe Biden actually wants to lower the eligible age that an individual can qualify for Medicare from 65 to 60, a move that he wants to be funded by general revenue. He also sees Medicare covering more than just medical costs, but dental and vision too. Finally, the last piece of Biden’s plan involves prescription drug prices. Specifically, he wants to prevent them from increasing higher than the rate of inflation.

However, Biden has also voiced support for creating a public health insurance option to expand coverage even further, which could actually compete with Medicare to a certain extent – complicating things.

Trump’s Plan

President Donald Trump’s plan seems to be less focused on Medicare funding and more focused on curbing the price of prescription drugs – and he’s already acted on this plan in a few key ways. One, he lifted so-called gag orders on pharmaceutical companies. Eliminating these gives patients more access to cheaper prescription alternatives that they may have not otherwise been informed about. Trump also put a cap on insulin per-month charges. Finally, he’s claimed that he plans to send $200 prescription drug payment cards to Medicare policy holders to help with some out-of-pocket expenses. That, however, has yet to happen. According to experts, the biggest priority should not be the price of prescription drugs, but how to keep the program funded. Trump has yet to publicly reveal any plan to do so at the time of this writing.

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