The Two Major Political Parties on Healthcare: Little Agreement

  • Healthcare was a top issue during the latest Democratic debate.
  • Democrats strongly favor expanding Obamacare and instituting a universal healthcare system.
  • Republicans strongly favor repealing Obamacare and deregulating the healthcare industry.

During the last Democratic debate we got two very different takes on what the American healthcare system should look like. The two leading progressive candidates, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, strongly advocated for a universal healthcare system, while Joe Biden, the leading moderate candidate, proposed an expansion and improvement of Obamacare.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), often shortened to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or nicknamed Obamacare, is a United States federal statute enacted by the 111th United States Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010. Together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 amendment, it represents the U.S. healthcare system’s most significant regulatory overhaul and expansion of coverage since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

But where does the party as a whole stand, and where do the Republicans stand? To answer these questions it’s helpful to look and the party platforms, which go into great detail regarding healthcare.

The Democrats’ 2016 platform announces strong support for universal healthcare and government controlled healthcare. The platform states, “Americans should be able to access public coverage through a public option, and those over 55 should be able to opt in to Medicare.

Interestingly, the platform does not state the national government should be solely responsible for providing universal healthcare, but should work with the states in order to secure this “right” for all Americans; “Democrats will empower the states, which are the true laboratories of democracy, to use innovation waivers under the ACA to develop unique locally tailored approaches to health coverage. This will include removing barriers to states which seek to experiment with plans to ensure universal health care to every person in their state.

Democrats also seek to decrease healthcare costs by ending “practices that lead to out-of-control medical debt that place an unconscionable economic strain on American households,” repealing “the excise tax on high-cost health insurancemaking premiums more affordable, reducing out-of-pocket expenses…capping prescription drug costs,” and allowing “individuals, pharmacists, and wholesalers to import prescription drugs from licensed pharmacies in Canada and other countries.

The last major point of the Democratic platform is to make sure the Affordable Care Act’s “Medicaid expansion” has been adopted in every state.” In short the Democrat Party’s goals are to promote universal healthcare, reduce the cost of healthcare through regulation of the insurance and drug companies, and to make sure every state adopts the ACA’s Medicaid expansion.

The GOP’s platform moves in a completely opposite direction from the Democrats.’ The Republicans favor a reduction in government regulation of healthcare, further privatization of healthcare, and to re introduce morality in healthcare.

A health savings account (HSA) is a tax-advantaged medical savings account available to taxpayers in the United States who are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). The funds contributed to an account are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), HSA funds roll over and accumulate year to year if they are not spent. HSAs are owned by the individual, which differentiates them from company-owned Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) that are an alternate tax-deductible source of funds paired with either high-deductible health plans or standard health plans.

The first line in the Republicans’ healthcare platform is, “Any honest platform for improving healthcare must start with repeal of the dishonestly named Affordable Care Act of 2010: Obamacare.” This is fitting since the Democrats’ healthcare platform begins with, “Thanks to the hard work of President Obama and Democrats in Congress, we took a critically important step toward the goal of universal health care by passing the Affordable Care Act.”

The Republican platform states that Obamacare “imposed a Euro-style bureaucracy to manage its unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions. It has driven up prices for all consumers.” That is why it’s a top priority of the GOP to repeal Obamacare. Republicans wish to simplify the healthcare system and reduce costs by reducing “mandates” and enabling “insurers and providers of care to increase healthcare options and contain costs.”

The Republicans’ platform calls for federal deregulation of health insurance and for more regulatory powers to be returned to the states; “We will return to the states their historic role of regulating local insurance markets, limit federal requirements on both private insurance and Medicaid.

The one thing it seems both parties agree on is to secure healthcare for those with preexisting conditions and financial need. Democrats believe the regulations imposed by Obamacare are the best way to do this, while Republicans support giving block grants, lump sums designated for a general purpose, to the states, allowing the states to provide healthcare to those who need it.

The GOP’s platform also calls for price transparency for consumers and for the  empowerment of “individuals and small businesses to form purchasing pools [a group of entities acting as one in the purchase of health insurance] in order to expand coverage to the uninsured.” Republicans also wish to expand consumer choice in healthcare. The GOP proposes “ending tax discrimination against the individual purchase of insurance and allow consumers to buy insurance across state lines,” and “repealing the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act which protects insurance companies from anti-trust litigation.”

The party platform also mentions “the growth of Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Accounts that empower patients and advance choice in healthcare.” Finally the Republicans support “the ability of all organizations to provide, purchase, or enroll in healthcare coverage consistent with their religious, moral, or ethical convictions without discrimination or penalty,” the “enactment of legislation that would require parental consent for their daughter to be transported across state lines for abortion,” the ending of a healthcare provider’s ability “to unilaterally withhold services because a patient’s life is deemed not worth living,” and “a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and healthcare plans that include abortion coverage.”

Clearly there’s not much overlap in two parties’ healthcare platforms. The few things that both parties agree on are securing healthcare for those with preexisting conditions and financial need, lowering the cost of healthcare, and increasing the accountability for healthcare providers, although the two parties’ plans for implementing these goals vary greatly.

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Kyle Reynolds

I'm a young writer who for a long time has been fascinated by history, politics, economics, and everything else that makes the world go round. I love to hear from my readers and can be contacted at

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