Health in the 2020 Political Party Platforms

September 02, 2020 | Jeffrey Ekoma

In anticipation of the upcoming presidential election in November, the Republican and Democratic National Committees released their platforms. These platforms provide an overview of values, policies, positions, and principles on various domestic and foreign issues deemed most important to the two political parties.

These platforms are developed by individual committees of each party during a presidential election year and are voted on during quadrennial party conventions. They are non-binding but do serve as roadmaps for not only presidential candidates to reference, but for other candidates and officials seeking elected office under each of the respective parties.

For the upcoming 2020 elections, delegates of the Republican National Committee (RNC) approved a resolution that renewed support for the platform adopted in 2016 and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) approved a 2020 platform. Although both platforms touch on a diverse list of issues, there are several that are of interest to health and public health.

Republican Priorities

The platform from the RNC included ideas on how to reform healthcare insurance in the country, namely by repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or Affordable Care Act (ACA). The idea would then be to enact legislation that promotes genuine competition, patient choice, timely access to treatment by reducing mandates and encouraging insurers and providers to increase healthcare options. In doing this, the goal would be to lower overall healthcare costs.

The platform also encourages reverting the regulation of local insurance markets to states; block granting Medicaid; limiting federal requirements on private insurance and Medicaid; and requesting that states reconsider medical mandates that impact the eligibility of individuals and families in the insurance market.

There is also a position on the importance of basic and applied biomedical research for diseases and disorders such as Alzheimer’s, restoring the FDA’s mission to focus on promoting and protecting public health, and combating drug abuse by considering the long term implications of trends in drug abuse for public health and safety. Absent from the platform were priorities around the current response to the coronavirus, including testing and the availability of a vaccine in the fall.

Democratic Priorities

The DNC platform was rooted in the affirmation of the ACA’s importance, as well as ensuring that everyone in the country has access to high quality health insurance and affordable prescription drugs. Tied to this specific effort is the need to address inequities that exist within the healthcare system, exacerbated by the overall racial equities that exist within American society.

The platform also addressed reducing healthcare costs by increasing price transparency within the health care system; increasing the number of health care practitioners in rural and low income areas; expanding access to mental health and substance use treatment by employing more providers and establishing parity between coverage of both by health insurers; strengthening the healthcare workforce by investing in the well-being of the current workforce and exploring underutilized professionals, such as community health care workers. There was also an expression of support for the CDC and an emphasis on the importance of scientific independence and improving overall health funding.

Unlike the RNC’s platform, the DNC includes priorities regarding the coronavirus. These priorities include expanding free testing to everyone; providing additional funding to state and local public health departments to conduct contact tracing; invoking the Defense Production Act to manufacture PPE and medical supplies; and restoring the role/presence of the country in global response to the pandemic.

Another difference between both platforms was the inclusion of gun violence as a public health crisis and strategies to study gun violence in the country within the Democratic platform. Attention was also given to U.S. territories with respect to increasing the cap on Medicaid resources as well as supporting investments to assist in the recovery from various disasters such as hurricanes.

Healthcare—and specifically public health—will be one of the top issues people will vote on in the November elections. Although the platforms offer nothing more than a list of priorities approved by each of the parties, they do offer insight into the most important issues of each party. In addition, they also provide an avenue to hold elected officials accountable during their service in office.

State and territorial health agencies are actively preparing to ensure that people are able to vote safely this fall. ASTHO will continue to monitor activity on this important issue in upcoming elections.