Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a plan Tuesday focusing on helping rural America through economic initiatives, investments in broadband infrastructure and expanding access to health care.
“It shouldn’t matter whether you live in a skyscraper in Manhattan or you live here in Manning. Your children deserve the exact same opportunities every other child in America is entitled to,” the former vice president told voters as he unveiled his plan, which the Biden campaign notes is focused on building rural communities from within.
The proposal, which Biden rolled out one day after releasing his health care policy plan, hones in on expanding access to and improving health care in these communities. Biden argued the way to protect rural hospitals is by building on the Affordable Care Act and warned of the impact of “Medicare for All,” a policy proposal embraced by some of his Democratic rivals, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“It threatens rural hospitals because Medicare reimbursement rates are just too low for these hospitals to keep the doors open,” Biden said of Medicare for All, which he also described as a “noble idea.” “If I’m elected president of the United States, I will be a health care priority supporter of rural hospitals and it starts by finishing the job of Obamacare.”
Biden’s plan calls for doubling funding for community health centers, increasing grant funding to build rural hospitals and enhance telehealth services, and boosting funding for medical residencies in rural communities to draw more doctors into the areas.
Biden also took aim at President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, saying, “How America’s farmers are being treated today I think is wrong. Too many are being crushed by the tariff war with China and it’s the wrong trade war to have with China. It’s not just about impacting farmers. It ripples throughout the entire economy.”
The proposal also calls for an expansion of an Obama-era microloan program for beginning farmers, a $20 billion investment in rural broadband infrastructure, the tripling of funding to expand broadband access in rural areas and emphasizing a clean energy approach.
Biden’s rural America plan comes on day two of the former vice president’s three day swing through Iowa. It marks his first trip to western Iowa as a presidential candidate this cycle with stops in Manning, Le Mars, Sioux City and Council Bluffs.
Biden said he consulted former Iowa Governor and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, an influential figure in the Hawkeye State, while crafting his plan. Vilsack and his wife Christie hosted Biden for a house party at their home on Monday, but the two have not offered an endorsement in the 2020 race.
In a statement, Vilsack said he was “happy” that Biden offered a “clear and comprehensive vision” for rural America.
“In addition to addressing the unique healthcare needs for rural America Vice President Biden also outlined how we must do more for agriculture especially in trade relations and for beginning farmers, and for small farming operations that wish to market locally,” he said. “I was happy to see his desire to partner with American agriculture to enable our farmers to lead a global effort to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions future for farming.”