WILMINGTON, DELAWARE – NOVEMBER 9: US President-elect Joe Biden speaks to the media after receiving a briefing from the COVID-19 Advisory Board on November 9, 2020 at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr Biden spoke about how his government would respond to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images)
Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images
WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden set out on Tuesday his case for expanding the Affordable Care Act, saying the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the urgent need to give more Americans access to health insurance.
"Starting January 20, Vice President-elect (Kamala) Harris and I will do everything we can to relieve you and your family of health care," Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.
Harris introduced Biden on stage and said Biden's victory over President Donald Trump was a mandate to expand access to health care and health insurance.
"Every vote for Joe Biden was a statement that health care in America should be a right and not a privilege," she said. "Every vote for Joe Biden was a vote to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act, not to tear it down amid a global pandemic."
Biden's remarks were timed to spark oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday in a major case over the constitutionality of the landmark 2010 Health Act.
But they also reflect the prominent position health and health issues occupy within the broader political agenda of the new Biden government.
Biden was declared the 2020 presidential election winner on Saturday after earning the 270 electoral college votes required to defeat President Donald Trump.
"My transition team will soon be starting work on fine-tuning the details so we can get started right away, address costs, improve access, and lower the price of prescription drugs. Families are swaying … they need a lifeline and they need it now, "said Biden.
On Monday, his first full day on the job as president-elect, Biden met with his newly assembled coronavirus task force and then spoke about the need for a nationwide campaign to promote mask-wearing. Biden's decision to use his second day of work as president-elect to speak again about health and health care was remarkable.
"This doesn't have to be a partisan problem. It's a human problem," he said of the expansion of health insurance.
The expansion of the ACA to include a government-administered health insurance option was a key promise in Biden's presidential campaign.
But Biden's helpers and advisers also knew that one of the promises relied most heavily on Democrats winning majorities in the House and Senate.
Given that Republicans are now likely to retain their majority in the Senate, the ACA is likely to expand to include "public options" as a negotiating platform rather than a legislative reality.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly called Obamacare "the worst bill in 50 years".