The Democratic Party-Tackling Drug Costs and Improving Healthcare Quality

Democrats are committed to investing in the research, development, and innovation that creates lifesaving drugs and lowers overall health costs, but the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies is simply unacceptable.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about each major political party’s platform on healthcare and related issues. I take this information directly from the website of each party and include the link so you can read the complete document.

We’ve already looked at the parties’ views on gun related violence and health insurance.

Whether you are registered as Republican, Democrat, Independent, or some other party, ultimately you will vote for a person. Do your research and learn what that person stands for, and whether it aligns with their party policy.

This post will review the Democratic position , and will be followed by the Republican stance in a few days. Follow this blog so you’ll know when each post in the series is online.

Note: the photos are for illustration, are not affiliated with the party platform, and are not intended to influence your opinion.

The Democratic Party Platform

This party platform was considered by the 2020 Platform committee at its meeting July 27, 2020 and was approved by the Democratic National Convention August 18, 2020.

Update-August 15, 2022

On August 12, 2022 Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act which, among other things ,made major changes to health policy by giving Medicare the power for the first time to negotiate the prices of certain prescription drugs and extending expiring health care subsidies for three years. It narrowly passed the Senate with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote to approve.

 No American should find themselves foregoing or rationing medications because they can’t afford to pay

the Democratic Party platform

Bringing Down Drug Prices and Taking on the Pharmaceutical Industry

Too many Americans struggle to afford the prescription drugs they need to get or stay healthy. No American should find themselves foregoing or rationing medications because they can’t afford to pay—especially when taxpayer money underwrites research leading to the development of many prescription drugs in the first place.

Democrats will 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 at last be able to negotiate prescription drug prices for all public and private purchasers—for families and businesses, as well as older Americans—no matter where they get their coverage.
  • 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.
white capsules in front of a prescription bottle
Photo by Julie Viken on

For too long, prescription drug companies have gamed the system to justify their price increases by any means available. Democrats will

  • crack down on anti-competitive efforts to manipulate the patent system or collude on prices.
  • eliminate tax breaks for prescription drug advertisements.

Democrats are committed to investing in the research, development, and innovation that creates lifesaving drugs and lowers overall health costs, but the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies is simply unacceptable.

Reducing Health Care Costs and Improving Health Care Quality

The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other advanced economy, and has less to show for it. Health care costs have been increasing for decades, with average premiums for an employer-provided family plan topping $20,000 in 2019.

Democrats know we can reduce out-of-pocket costs for families while improving the quality of health care for all.

We will 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.

Democrats believe that when Americans are in the hospital or an emergency room, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether their health care providers are in-network or not.

We will

  • outlaw the predatory practice of surprise medical billing.
  • work to increase price transparency in the health care system across all payers.
  • reduce paperwork through uniform medical billing.
  • use antitrust laws to fight against mega-mergers in the hospital, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries that would raise prices for patients by undermining market competition.

Democrats will fight any efforts to cut Medicare benefits, and support finding financially sustainable policies to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing.

a female physician talking to a male patient

Democrats will support policies that increase the number of primary care practitioners, registered nurses, dentists, and dental therapists, especially in rural and low-income metropolitan areas, so it’s easier for every American to access preventive and primary health care.

Democrats value all people and will actively promote wellness programs for all ages in our diverse communities for better overall health.

Drugged Driving-Drug and alcohol use can impair driving by affecting critical thinking and motor skills.

Expanding Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment

Every American who needs it should be able to access mental health care or substance use disorder treatment, no matter where they live.

Democrats will

aggressively enforce the federal mental health and substance use disorder parity law and ensure that health insurers adequately cover mental health and substance use treatment.

invest in training and hiring more mental health providers, substance use disorder counselors, and peer support counselors, expanding funding for health clinics, especially in rural areas, and increasing access to these services through Medicaid.

support increased training for health care professionals, educators, social workers, and other care workers in trauma-informed care and practices.

oppose efforts to weaken HIPAA and FERPA privacy rights of people with mental illness.

make medication-assisted treatment available to all who need it, and will require publicly supported health clinics to offer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction and approved treatments for other substance use disorders.

Incarcerated people suffer from serious mental health and substance use disorders at higher rates than the general population, which is why we will

  • support expanded access to mental health and substance use disorder care in prisons and for returning citizens.
  • ensure no one is incarcerated solely for drug use, and
  • support increased use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance use disorders.
Tips for talking with your health care provider about your mental health-prepare before visit, bring a friend or relative, be honest, ask questions

Expanding Long-Term Care Services and Supports

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of people who reside in institutional settings, such as nursing homes and independent living facilities, and made clear that biases within Medicaid create undue barriers to home- and community-based long-term services and supports.

Democrats will

work to eliminate waiting lists for home and community-based care and the institutional bias within Medicaid, making investments in building the capacity of the Medicaid system to provide home and community-based services

modernize Medicaid eligibility so people with disabilities do not have to work low-wage jobs to access needed services, and to ensure the spouses of people with disabilities can maintain a certain level of income and assets.

help Americans pay for long-term care by creating a tax credit for informal and family caregivers and increasing the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

pursue policies to improve nursing home staffing and quality standards, strengthen accreditation processes, and combat corporate abuses in nursing homes and independent living facilities.

And Democrats are strongly committed to protecting and enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act and fulfilling the promise of the Olmstead v. L.C. decision, which found institutional segregation of people with disabilities to be unlawful.

a man in a wheelchair

exploring the HEART of healthcare policy

I appreciate your interest in the politics of healthcare, an issue that is vital to all of us every day. These proposals will become more focussed and debated as election day approaches; the national election is Tuesday Novembe 8, 2022. Please exercise your right to vote, I intend to.

Dr Aletha

A doctor writes about “Being Mortal”

Some treatments, rather than extending life can prolong the suffering. Still it is heart wrenching for patients and families, along with their doctors, to decide that it is time to forgo treatment and instead opt for palliative care, with or without hospice.

This post was updated July 10, 2021

Atul Gawande, M.D. , author of Being Mortal, is a surgeon, writer, and public health leader. He is a practicing endocrine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

He founded Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and Lifebox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally. He also co-founded CIC Health, which operates COVID-19 testing and vaccination nationally, and served as a member of the Biden transition COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Dr. Gawande writes for The New Yorker magazine and has written four New York Times best-selling books. He won two National Magazine Awards, AcademyHealth’s Impact Award for highest research impact on healthcare, a MacArthur Fellowship, and the Lewis Thomas Award for writing about science.

In 2021 he delivered the commencement address at Stanford University , from which he had graduated. In his speech he referenced the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it the third highest cause of death in 2020. He also told the graduates,

We are often most energized when we help others express their worth.

Atul Gawande

(This blog post features affiliate links which pay a small commission to this blog from purchases, without additional cost to you)

Being Mortal 

Medicine and What Matters in the End

In Being Mortal, Dr. Gawande explores the way most people now live, age and die and for the most part it’s not a pleasant prospect.

How we care for elderly people

As people age and lose independence due to frailness, illness, mental decline and poverty, they often also lose whatever is most important to them- their home, pets, hobbies, possessions. And these losses often occur to protect them from harm as they progress into assisted living centers, nursing homes and hospice.

Dr. Gawande describes how his  family in India expected  to care for their elderly relatives, which differed from what he saw happen when they immigrated to the United States. After becoming a physician, he recognized that our care of the elderly often robs them of the well-being that he sought to promote in his practice.

He wondered how it can be done differently. To find out, he interviewed people who are developing novel ways to provide care to older people, care that preserves their independence, dignity and choices while still keeping them safe and protected.

Most of us either have relatives or friends facing these decisions, or are facing them ourselves. If not now, we all will eventually. Whichever the case, this book shows

“how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life-all the way to the very end.”

Atul Gawande
woman sitting in a cemetery
photo from the collection, an affiliate link

How we care for dying people

Finally, Dr. Gawande discusses end -of -life care- that is, care when a disease has become terminal and a cure is no longer likely. Sometimes it is difficult to determine when that occurs. As he says, it is rare in medicine when there truly is “nothing more we can do”.

However, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. Some treatments, rather  than extending life just prolong the suffering. Still it is heart wrenching for patients and families, along with their doctors, to decide that it is time to forgo treatment and instead opt for palliative care, with or without hospice.

(Palliative care focuses on symptom management and social and emotional support for patients and families.)

Dr. Gawande poignantly describes this process by sharing in detail his  father’s cancer diagnosis, treatment, progression, hospice care and death. He shows how difficult a process this can be, given that even he and his parents, all of whom are physicians, struggled to come to terms with the reality of terminal illness and the dying process. Though they were all familiar with and experienced in dealing with the medical system, they still felt unprepared to face the decisions required at the end of life. But in the end, both he and his father felt at peace with the outcome and Dr. Gawande senior did experience “a good life-all the way to the very end.”

Other books by Dr. Gawande

Complications : A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science

In gripping accounts of true cases, surgeon Atul Gawande explores the power and the limits of medicine, offering an unflinching view from the scalpel’s edge. Complications lays bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is―uncertain, perplexing, and profoundly human.

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance 

The struggle to perform well is universal: each of us faces fatigue, limited resources, and imperfect abilities in whatever we do. But nowhere is this drive to do better more important than in medicine, where lives may be on the line with any decision.

Atul Gawande, the New York Times bestselling author of Complications, examines, in riveting accounts of medical failure and triumph, how success is achieved in this complex and risk-filled profession

The Checklist Manifesto:How to Get Things Right

Atul Gawande shows what the simple idea of the checklist reveals about the complexity of our lives and how we can deal with it.

Here is Dr. Gawande’s speech at the Stanford Commencement

sharing the HEART of health from birth to death

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your  help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

Dr Aletha

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