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The two major American political parties have released their 2016 party platforms in anticipation of their respective party conventions and the upcoming general election. Given the importance of health care in this upcoming election, the Center for Medicare Advocacy has done an initial analysis of the health-related positions of the two parties. Below we present a comparison of Medicare and health care related policies the two parties may pursue according to their platform statements, as well as links to those statements so those interested in more detail can read them in their entirety.

Topic

Democratic Party Platform Positions

Republican Party Platform Positions

Medicare Structural Reform

“Democrats will fight any  attempts by Republicans in  Congress to privatize,  voucherize, or ‘phase Out’ Medicare as we know it.”[1]

“Impose no changes for persons [currently] 55 or older. Give others the option of traditional Medicare or transition to a premium-support model designed to strengthen patient choice.” [2]

Give every person eligible for Medicare in the future who is also under 55 years of age an income-adjusted stipend (with catastrophic protection) to put towards health expenses.[3]

Medicare Eligibility

Optional Medicare buy-in for persons 55 or older[4]

“Set a more realistic age for eligibility in light of today’s longer life span.”[5] (The Center interprets this to mean raising the age of Medicare eligibility.)

Puerto Rican Medicare Access

Equal access to Medicare for Puerto Ricans[6]

No Statement

Access to Health Care

End goal is universal health coverage. Americans should be able to access comprehensive health coverage through either Medicare or a public health option.[7]

No Statement

Medical Costs

Keep premiums more affordable & reduce out-of-pocket expenses[8]

No Statement

End “surprise billing.” Consumers should be aware of health costs prior to a visit to a physician.[9]

Rx Costs and Access

Cap the amount Americans have to pay every month in out-of-pocket expenses[10]

No Statement

Medicare should be able to negotiate Rx prices with drug manufacturers[11]

Prohibit “pay-for-delay” tactics that keep cheaper generic drugs from entering the market[12]

Allow American consumers to import less-expensive drugs from abroad with appropriate safety protections[13]

The Affordable Care Act

Push for the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in states that have not taken this step.[14]

The Affordable Care Act “must be removed and replaced with an approach based on genuine competition, patient choice, excellent care, wellness, and timely access to treatment.  To that end, a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.”[15]

Community Health Centers

The Democratic platform calls for “a push for a comprehensive system of primary medical, dental, and mental health care and low-cost prescription drugs through a major expansion of community health centers” with the goal of providing valuable preventive care, education, and treatment of chronic conditions for many low-income Americans.[16]

No Statement

Meeting the Health Needs of a Diverse Population

Health materials should be culturally and linguistically appropriate and easy to read.[17]

No Statement

 

Health data should be separated into its component parts for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. This will help in developing and understanding the health needs and preferences of these two disparate groups.[18]

End-of-Life Rights

No Statement

“America’s healthcare professionals should not be forced to choose between following their faith and practicing their profession. We respect the rights of conscience of healthcare professionals… Providers should not be permitted to unilaterally withhold services because a patient’s life is deemed not worth living.”[19]

Advancing Americans with Disabilities

No Statement

Support the Steve Gleason Act of 2015, which provided access to speech-generating devices to ALS-diagnosed Medicare beneficiaries. [20]

 

The following language was submitted by the Leadership Council on Aging (LCAO) with input from the Center for Medicare Advocacy (emphasis added)

  1. Health Care and Long-Term Services and Supports. We believe that access to affordable, high-quality health care and long-term services and supports is part of the American promise that no one should go broke because they get sick, develop a disability, or are at the end of life. We will defend Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act against harmful cuts and seek to expand these programs to better protect older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income Americans. 
  2. Recognize Medicare as one of the great American success stories. We must truly protect and modernize the program to continue to meet the needs of older people, people with disabilities and their families into the 21st Century. This means preserving Medicare’s universal social insurance model, with its minimal administrative costs, rather than further privatizing it with a voucher/premium support system. We must require complete parity in payments and benefits between the traditional Medicare program and private Medicare Advantage. Rather than scale back this successful program, we must expand it by eliminating gaps in coverage, such as dental, hearing and vision care
  3. Combat Rising Prescription Drug Costs. Americans pay the highest costs for prescription drugs in the world, causing older adults, people with disabilities, and families to forgo desperately needed medications, go without other basic needs, or risk bankruptcy. We are committed to fixing this problem through solutions such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, instituting an out-of-pocket cap in Medicare Part D, restoring discounts in Medicare available to state Medicaid programs, making transparent what it costs to develop breakthrough medications, and promoting research on the clinical effectiveness of comparable prescription drugs
  4. Advanced Illness and End-of-Life Care. People living with an advanced illness or nearing the end of life need and deserve access to a full range of high-quality health care options that honor their dignity and values and are person and family centered, well-coordinated, and integrated with community supports and services. 
  5. Improve LTSS Financing. Our nation has too long ignored the urgent need to address the emerging long-term services and supports crisis facing people with disabilities of all ages. We believe that all Americans deserve access to affordable coverage that protects against the financially ruinous costs of dementia and other conditions that require long periods of assistance with activities of daily living and instrumental activities of daily living. 
  6. End the Institutional Bias in Medicaid. Currently within the Medicaid program, states are required to provide nursing facility coverage while most home and community-based services (HCBS) are optional. It is time that we address this issue by assisting states with streamlining and rebalancing their long-term services and supports and by guaranteeing the right of people with disabilities of all ages to live in the community and lead an independent life.

[1] The Democratic Party. “2016 Democratic Party Platform.” 21 July 2016.  https://www.demconvention.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Democratic-Party-Platform-7.21.16-no-lines.pdf (site visited July 26, 2016). P. 35.
[2] The Republican Party. “Republican Platform 2016.” 18 July 2016. https://prod-static-ngop-pbl.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_FINAL[1]-ben_1468872234.pdf (site visited July 19, 2016). P. 24.
[3] Ibid.
[4] The Democratic Party. “2016 Democratic Party Platform.” P. 34.
[5] The Republican Party. “Republican Platform 2016.” P. 24.
[6] The Democratic Party. “2016 Democratic Party Platform.”  P. 23.
[7] Ibid. P. 34.
[8] Ibid P. 35.
[9] Ibid. P. 34.
[10] Ibid. P. 35.
[11] Ibid. P. 36.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid. P. 35.
[15] The Republican Party. “Republican Platform 2016.” P. 36.
[16] The Democratic Party. “2016 Democratic Party Platform.” P. 35.
[17] Ibid. P. 26, 35.
[18] Ibid. P. 26.
[19] The Republican Party. “Republican Platform 2016.” P. 37.
[20] Ibid. P. 38. 

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