Joe Biden

Former Vice President (2009-2017)

On the Issues

National Democratic Party Platform

Please click here to read the National Democratic Party platform used during the 2020 DNC Convention. Highlights of the health care policy priorities from the Democratic Party platform are as follows:

  • Securing Universal Health Care Through a Public Option
    • Give all Americans the choice to select a high-quality, affordable public option through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. The public option will provide at least one plan choice without deductibles; will be administered by CMS, not private companies; and will cover all primary care without any co-payments and control costs for other treatments by negotiating prices.
    • Noting that the public and private insurance system alone is not enough to guarantee universal access, Democrats support doubling investments in community health centers and rural health clinics in underserved urban and rural areas, as well as mobile health clinics. Democrats will enact longer, multi-year funding cycles for these critical health services so they can operate with greater certainty.
    • Expand the National Health Service Corps and Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program to grow a diverse primary care workforce and to address critical shortages of health care providers in medically underserved rural and urban areas, including primary care nurses.
  • Bringing Down Drug Prices and Taking on the Pharmaceutical Industry
    • Take aggressive action to ensure that Americans do not pay more for prescription drugs than people in other advanced economies, and ensure that all necessary medications are covered.
    • Empower Medicare to be able to negotiate prescription drug prices for all public and private purchasers.
    • Prevent the price of brand-name and outlier generic drugs from rising faster than the inflation rate, cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors, and ensure that effective treatments for chronic health conditions are available at little or no cost.
  • Reducing Health Care Costs and Improving Health Care Quality
    • Make it easier for working families to afford high-quality insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces by ensuring that no one pays more than 8.5 percent of their income in premiums and eliminating the cap on subsidies.
    • Outlaw surprise medical billing and work to increase price transparency in the health care system across all payers, and reduce paperwork through uniform medical billing.
    • Support finding financially sustainable policies to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing.
    • Support policies that increase the number of primary care practitioners, including registered nurses, especially in rural and low-income metropolitan areas
    • Expand access to mental health and substance use treatment, including by enforcing the federal mental health and substance use disorder parity law, investing in hiring and training more healthcare providers, and making medication-assisted treatment available to all who need it
    • Pursue policies to improve nursing home staffing and quality standards, strengthen accreditation processes, and combat corporate abuses in nursing homes and independent living facilities.
  • Eliminate Racial, Gender, and Geographic Health Inequities
    • Launch a sustained, government-wide effort, with leadership at the highest levels, to eliminate racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic gaps in insurance rates, access to quality care, and health outcomes. That includes tackling the social, economic, and environmental inequities—the social determinants of health like poor housing, hunger, inadequate transportation, mass incarceration, air and water pollution, and gun violence—that contribute to worse health outcomes for low-income Americans and people of color.
    • Extend Affordable Care Act coverage to Dreamers, and work with Congress to lift the five-year waiting period for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program eligibility for low-income, lawfully present immigrants
    • Democrats remain committed to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic
    • Native American tribes have for too long been forced to cope with insufficient access to health care and mental health services, nutrition services, and modern infrastructure. Democrats are committed to pursuing environmental justice and climate justice, including for Indigenous peoples and communities, and will make mandatory and work toward full funding for the Indian Health Service
    • Secure reproductive health, rights, and justice, including by repealing the Title X domestic gag rule and restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, fighting to overturn federal and state laws that create barriers to reproductive health and rights, repealing the Hyde Amendment, and protect and codify the right to reproductive freedom.
    • Protect and promote maternal health, including by expanding postpartum Medicaid coverage to a full year after giving birth, investing in rural maternal health, promoting a diverse perinatal workforce, and implementing implicit bias training for health professionals.
    • Restore nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS in health insurance, including coverage of all medically necessary care for gender transition. Democrats will also take action to guarantee that LGBTQ+ people and those living with HIV/AIDS have full access to needed health care and resources
  • Strengthening and Supporting the Health Care Workforce
    • Referring to nurses and other frontline healthcare providers as heroes, the Democratic platform states that that all jobs in the caring economy must come with family-sustaining wages, good benefits, access to paid leave, fair and predictable schedules, access to training and professional development, and the ability to join a union and collectively bargain.
    • Democrats will also invest in community health worker care-forces around the nation, close provider gaps and increase diversity in the health care profession by creating a robust pipeline of talent with career ladders for advancement, and increase opportunities for community health workers to come from the communities they serve.
  • Investing in Health Science and Research
    • Support increased and sustainable funding for health and medical research and federal grants across agencies, including at the National Cancer Institute and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the CDC, and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.
    • Democrats also support increasing funding for research into health disparities by race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, geographic area, and socioeconomic status, with a particular focus on how the social determinants of health contribute to differences in health outcomes.
  • Support for Schools to Hire Nurses
    • Democrats are committed to safe and supportive school climates for students and educators, including through ensuring adequate resources for schools to hire

Health System Transformation

Vice President Biden calls for protecting and building on the Affordable Care Act by giving every American affordable health insurance, providing quality care under a less complicated insurance system, standing up to prescription drug corporations and ensuring that health care is a right for all.

The Biden health care plan would give people the option of into a public health insurance option, like Medicare. This plan would leave the employer-based system intact and not allow large employers to buy into the public option.

The plan serves multiple functions; it gives people an additional insurance option if they cannot afford the employer-based insurance, provides aid to small businesses who may not afford to insure their employees and would provide an additional insurance option in states who have refused to expand Medicare.

Vox refers to the Biden plan as a backstop for the current system and references a Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimate of the plan of $2.25 trillion over 10 years.

More concrete details of the Biden plan include ending surprise billing, increased tax credits for working-class families, use existing antitrust authority against monolithic drug corporations, allow consumers to purchase prescription drugs from other countries and expand access to mental health care. To read additional information on the Biden health care plan, please visit his campaign website.

Please visit our Health System Transformation Nursing Priority page to see where ANA stands on this important topic.


Vice President Biden has called for numerous actions to be taken in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the beginning stages, Biden has called for a transparent federal reporting process surrounding testing, challenging the administration to expand the number of beds and facilities that could accept patients and even recommended the national guard assist with the response, if necessary. Biden suggested increasing the amount of available medical personnel by greatly expanding the Medical Reserve Corps. His most important initial call to the Trump administration was for increased Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by activating the Defense Production Act (DPA) and transparency for the supply chains and means of production for the Strategic National Stockpile and other distribution channels.

Vice President Biden also called for the appointment of a Supply Commander. He made this ask because he personally felt there was a lack of coordinated effort of testing with not enough testing being done and there was not enough personnel and PPE to administer the high volume of testing needed.

Biden has also stipulated certain conditions are necessary for the country to begin to reopen. First, cases need to continue to decline, social distancing must continue, and frontline workers need to receive the necessary PPE and other medical supplies by utilizing the full powers under the DPA. Second, testing needs to heavily increase, and the country needs to scale up to be able perform high-volume, rapid serology tests. The last condition is to prepare health care facilities for any flare ups that might occur with the understanding that reopening will not be completely safe.

Other actions the Vice President has called for include the creation of a Pandemic Testing Board to track testing within the country as well as the formation of the U.S. Public Health Jobs Corps made up of 100,000 members, including those previously employed by Americorps and Peace Corps to bring contact tracing to all populations of the country.

On vaccines, Biden has stated that it should be up to the Food and Drug Administration to independently decide when a vaccine can be safely delivered. He also stated in July 2020 that the clinical data of any approved vaccine be made public and subject to independent review and transparency.

Please visit the COVID-19 Nursing Priority page to see the work ANA has done in the COVID-19 space.

Cancer Moonshot Initiative

Vice President Biden led the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative which raised funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, including a $264 million boost specifically for the National Cancer Institute.

Workforce Development

During his time representing Delaware in the Senate, Biden introduced the Nursing Education Opportunities Act (S. 2230) and cosponsored both the Nurse Reinvestment Act (S. 1864) and the Nurse-Managed Health Clinic Investment Act of 2007 (S. 2112).

S. 2230 would have expanded the nurse student loan program and establish grant programs to address the nursing shortage. S.1864 would have similarly established a Nurse Corps to address recruitment and retention strategies to address the nursing shortage. S. 2112 would have established the Nurse-Managed Health Clinic Investment program to address underserved or vulnerable populations and are associated with a school, college, or nursing department, federally qualified health center, or independent nonprofit health or social services agency. Only S. 1864 passed the Senate and none of the bills were passed into law.

Please visit the Workforce Development Nursing Priority page to see all of the work and successes ANA has fought to achieve in the workforce development space.


A major role of Biden’s strategy to combat the opioid epidemic is to protect and strengthen the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Biden explains that the ACA already designates substance use disorder treatment and mental health services as essential benefits that insurers must cover, along with expanding Medicaid, which also plays an increasingly growing role as a payer for substance use disorder services.

The Vice President’s proactive plans to combat opioid addiction include holding accountable big pharmaceutical companies, executives, and others responsible for their role in triggering the opioid crisis and making effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services available to all, including through a $125 billion federal investment. This all according to his campaign website.

He also calls for the end of overprescribing while improving access to effective and necessary pain management, and reforming the criminal justice system so that no one is incarcerated for drug use alone while curbing the flow of illicit drugs, like fentanyl and heroin, into the United States – especially from China and Mexico.

Vice President Biden has stated that addiction is a disease of the brain and should be treated with compassion instead of punishment. This marks a clear distinction from Biden’s earlier stances on addiction and drugs which have evolved over the course of this career as a lawmaker. In the mid-1980s, while in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden worked to pass a series of bills that helped to shape the modern-day war on drugs with mandatory sentences for drug offenses instead of addressing addiction as a public health issue.

To read more of Biden’s plans to combat the opioid epidemic, please visit his campaign website.

Please visit the Opioid Nursing Priority page to see all of the work ANA has done on the opioid epidemic.

Additional Health Care Information

The Vice President frequently mentions the importance of nurses from his experience during his son’s battle with brain cancer.

In a 2013 speech during Mental Health Awareness Week, the Vice President noted that “Doctors might save your life, but its nurses that make you want to live, and if there’s any angels in heaven, by the way, they’re all nurses.” He gave similar remarks in a speech dedicated to hospice nurses in Atlanta in May 2018.

In April 2019, Biden hosted a forum at the University of Pennsylvania on the opioid crisis where he called on the government to change its view of addiction, saying it has failed to effectively deal with the opioid crisis. “Many politicians believe addiction is a matter of willpower, leading to a lack of funding for opioid prevention policies,” Biden added. “It’s a disease — it’s a disease of the brain.” Biden would later call the opioid crisis a national emergency and decried the over-prescription of opioids by American doctors, as well as the “greed” of drug companies.


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