Joe Biden, our newly elected President, is faced with many crises. One of the most pressing issues is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Dealing with this public health emergency will shape his administration – but what other health issues will he work on? And what will he do about them?
So what’s going on in Washington?
Good question! Joe Biden will be the first Democratic President in 4 years, and this is the first time since 2011 that the House and the Senate are both controlled by Democrats as well. This gives him extra room to maneuver: with a friendly Congress, he can get more done. We’ve talked about some priorities in an earlier post, but things change fast!
Got it. So what’s changed?
We’ve gotten some important clarifications! First, he’s rejoined the World Health Organization. Second, he mandated wearing masks on federal property and during travel between states. Third, he’ll issue executive orders to review Trump administration policies that impact public health and the environment. He’ll also prevent evictions during Covid and prioritize racial equity in policymaking.
These steps alone, things he did as soon as he got into office, are huge. But they’re not all!
There’s more? Like what?
We know how he’ll invoke the Defense Production Act: for starters, he’ll increase the production of vaccines and needles. He’ll also be looking to revoke the “Mexico City policy” that prevents US aid money from funding reproductive health care programs abroad.
He also plans to spend about $170 billion to get schools ready to reopen safely within the first 100 days of his administration. The money won’t just be for cleaning: everything from ventilation to transportation to testing will be covered.
Additionally, he’ll push to let people over the age of 60 enroll in Medicare, not just people over 65. Also, we’re finally getting a look at the public option!
Wait, what’s the public option? I feel like I’ve heard that before.
A big open question! We also talked about this in another post, but it’s good to refresh. There is still some discussion on what exactly he means by public option, but it appears like it’ll be a lot like the Medicare Extra for All plan, proposed by his nominee for head of Office of Management and Budget. Anyone, including people covered by private insurance, could opt to be covered by the public option. This could mean huge savings for most people, and would represent the biggest change in healthcare since the ACA – but it would have to overcome some big Congressional hurdles first.
What’s the vaccination plan?
Really important question. For now, Biden’s mantra has been “100 million shots in 100 days.” He plans to expand mass vaccination sites, making sure there are enough vaccines to go around. He’ll also set up more sites like local pharmacies for people to get vaccinated. 100 million shots sounds like a lot of vaccinations, and it is – but it isn’t enough. While it would represent a big leap from vaccine distribution under Trump, some experts still say it isn’t fast enough. Additionally, remember that every vaccine approved right now requires 2 shots: 100 million shots means only 50 million people get vaccinated, and there are about 330,000,000 Americans.
Things are still changing, and will continue to change – keep checking back and we’ll keep breaking the plans down for you!