What Nine Key Presidential Candidates Would Do About Healthcare

Leigh Page


October 16, 2015

In This Article

Examining the Views of Both Parties

Every candidate in the 2016 presidential election has something to say about healthcare. Though they split along party lines over the 800-pound gorilla in the room—the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—they have surprisingly different stances on specific healthcare issues, even within the same party.

Here we take a look at the healthcare stances of nine candidates from both parties. We've included the two physicians, but several well-known candidates are missing from our list because, frankly, there are too many candidates to deal with in any kind of in-depth way. In the first Republican debate on August 6, a total of 17 candidates participated in two separate shifts, and five candidates participated in the first Democratic debate on October 13.

Below are the candidates (and potential candidates) in alphabetical order:

Joe Biden (Democrat)—Biding his Time

Vice President Joe Biden has been considering a run for the presidency for many months. He's blown through a self-imposed deadline to announce his decision by the end of the summer, and now he's running out of time. Starting on November 6, states will begin closing off applications for participating in primary contests, and the deadline for Florida, one of the biggest prizes, comes at the end of November.

Noncandidate Biden is enjoying a huge bump in popularity, outpacing Hillary Clinton herself in some polls. A Quinnipiac poll[1] found that he would defeat GOP candidates Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina by three percentage points in Ohio and Pennsylvania, while Clinton would trail them by three points.

But what policies would Biden run on? As vice president for almost 7 years, he's been part and parcel of the Obama administration's healthcare policies, including the ACA, which the majority of Americans still don't support, according to the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll.[2]

Would Biden be critical of parts of the ACA, as the announced Democratic candidates have been? "Criticizing Obamacare might be very awkward for him because the boss is still there," says Joseph Antos, a scholar at American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. "But he might be able to say, 'We made a lot of progress, and we could make more if we change it.'"

If he did decide to run, Biden would be up against the Clintons' daunting political machine. As of October 12, Hillary Clinton had already amassed 354 endorsements from governors, senators, and representatives, a figure that is "unprecedented for a non-incumbent Democrat," according to FiveThirtyEight, the political statistics site.[3]

And would he be as popular after he announces as he is right now? Politicians considering a run for office are delicious, but as soon as they throw their hat into the ring, they become yesterday's news. That's what happened to GOP candidate Fred Thompson in 2008.

Once on the campaign trail, Biden's penchant for gaffes might be a liability. When Obama signed the ACA, a microphone famously caught the vice president whispering, "This is a big f--ing deal." Today, voters might excuse the expletive but maybe not the substance of what he said. How many people still have that level of enthusiasm for Obamacare?