Trump vs. Clinton: Who's Better on Health?

A Motherboard report card.

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Sep 26 2016, 8:20pm

Editor's Note: In anticipation of the presidential debates, Motherboard has graded Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the depth of their insight, and the viability of their policies, regarding the subjects near and dear to us: cybersecurity, health, energy, space, environment, telecom and, of course, marijuana. Spoiler: It's not always pretty.

Health is one of the few topics that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have actually discussed during their campaigns. In a recent Pew poll, voters identified healthcare as the fourth most important issue this election, behind the economy, terrorism, and foreign policy. Yet when you start to tease apart each candidate's views and plans for healthcare in America, they both have some shortcomings.

When it comes to health insurance, both candidates have laid out plans for what they would roll out if elected. Clinton's plan, predictably, builds on Obamacare, including creating a rebate program to reduce the impact of out-of-pocket healthcare costs and capping the prices for prescription drugs. It would aim to use aggressive regulatory tactics to wrestle health insurers and drug manufacturers into submission and shift the cost away from consumers. However, critics point out that these proposed programs would be costly—an analysis commissioned by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on healthcare, showed Clinton's plan could impact the federal deficit by as much as $90 billion. Clinton hasn't made it clear enough how we'd be able to pay for all these changes to the healthcare system.

Trump's plan for healthcare is one of the more fleshed-out parts of his platform. He wants to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a free-market vision of healthcare and encourage more Americans to shift to private insurance, through breaks like tax deductions. However, critics point out that the immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act would leave millions uninsured, and Trump's plan isn't nearly detailed enough to effectively replace the ACA. The Commonwealth Fund's analysis of Trump's plan estimates it would increase the number of uninsured Americans from 16 million to 25 million and increase the deficit by as much as $41 billion. Even Republican healthcare experts have criticized Trump's plan for being spotty at best and not offering any options for Americans with middle or low income.

Beyond their policy plans, Clinton has shown greater prowess when it comes to topics of health, taking a firm stance on the effectiveness of vaccines while Trump still flicks at the possibility of a relationship between vaccines and autism (a thoroughly debunked myth). Clinton has suggested some late-pregnancy limits on abortion, while Trump has proposed to "ban" abortion and even said women who get abortions should be punished (he later retracted this statement). Though neither candidate is without shortcomings when it comes to healthcare, Clinton has a leg-up with decades of time invested in working on health policy.

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