Biden Calls for Subsidies for Health Insurance: Campaign Update




(Bloomberg) -- Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called Wednesday for the next round of stimulus legislation to include a full federal subsidy for the private health insurance premiums of workers who lose their jobs during the coronavirus epidemic.

"The government should pick up the full cost of Cobra premiums right now," Biden said during a virtual town hall on unemployment, suggesting that the support should be part of the so-called phase four coronavirus response bill that Congress is beginning to discuss.

The Cobra program allows people who had employer-provided coverage to continue to purchase the insurance, though typically at a much higher out-of-pocket cost.

Biden said workers need more support now than they received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, which included a 65% subsidy for Cobra payments. "This crisis is going to be even bigger. So our support for the American people is going to need to be even more generous," he said.

The former vice president's call for the subsidy comes after the Trump administration said last week that it would not open a special enrollment period for uninsured Americans to buy plans available in Affordable Care Act marketplaces.

Polls Point to Trouble for Trump During Crisis (3:29 p.m.)

Joe Biden got some good news on his first day as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee with two polls released Wednesday pointing to trouble for President Donald Trump.

As Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders ended his campaign, a Monmouth University poll showed Americans souring on Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, while a Quinnipiac University poll had him losing to Biden by 8 points in November.

Trump has enjoyed a slight bump in his approval rating since the pandemic began, but 49% of Monmouth respondents said the president was doing a bad job managing the crisis, while only 46% said he has done a good job. Quinnipiac found similar numbers on the same question: 51% disapproved of his handling, while 46% approved.

In a head-to-head matchup in the Quinnipiac poll, Biden beat Trump 49% to 41%.

Quinnipiac also found Trump getting his highest job approval rating as president, with 45% approving of the job he's doing overall, and 51% disapproving.

The Quinnipiac poll of 2,077 self-identified registered voters was conducted April 2-6. It has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points. The Monmouth poll of 857 adults was conducted April 3-7. It has a margin of error of 3.4 points. -- Ryan Teague Beckwith

Biden Could Pick Running Mate Before Convention (3:13 p.m.)

Joe Biden could announce his vice-presidential pick well before the Democratic National Convention in mid-August, he told supporters Wednesday just hours after opponent Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race.

"There has been some discussion from my team about maybe this should be announced before the usual time," Biden said during a video fundraiser after a donor suggested a June announcement.

"But it's going to take a while just to get through the vetting and get down to making a determination," he said, adding that a team is preparing to begin vetting potential candidates. That process could take weeks or months as lawyers examine public and private records and Biden interviews the finalists.

In 2008, when Barack Obama chose Biden as his running mate, the announcement came just two days before the start of the late-August Democratic National Convention. Hillary Clinton selected Tim Kaine just days before the party's late-July convention in 2016. The 2020 convention was initially scheduled for July 13-16 but was delayed until Aug. 17-20 because of the coronavirus pandemic. -- Jennifer Epstein

New Jersey Moves June Primary to July 7 (2:35 p.m.)

New Jersey will move its primary from June 2 to July 7 because of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that extends it past the Democratic National Committee's normal deadline for delegates to be selected.

"We want to preserve the possibility that improvements in the public health situation will allow for in-person voting," New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said in a tweet. "But, if we eventually have to make the move to a statewide, all-VBM election, which has never happened before, this extra time will make that task easier," he said, referring to a possible vote-by-mail election.

New Jersey has had 44,416 cases of coronavirus and 1,232 deaths. Wednesday was the state's deadliest day with 275 fatalities. Murphy declared a state of emergency on March 9.

Under the rules the DNC set for 2020, states may hold Democratic primaries until June 9. Louisiana in mid-March announced it would be delaying its primary until June 20, and Kentucky and New York have moved their vote to June 23. A DNC staff member said a committee will have to decide whether to grant waivers to states and whether a late primary will affect the number of delegates allocated.

Fifteen states and Puerto Rico have either delayed primaries or switched to vote-by-mail because of the virus. Wisconsin held its primary Tuesday after a court ruled at the last minute the governor could not delay. The change to New Jersey's primary also delays elections for Cory Booker's U.S. Senate seat as well as 12 of the state's seats in the U.S. House. -- Emma Kinery

More Americans Say Trump Doing Bad Job on Virus (1:20 p.m.)

Americans are beginning to sour on President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis, according to a poll by Monmouth University released Wednesday.

Forty-nine percent of poll respondents said Trump was doing a bad job with the pandemic, while 46% said he has done a good job. That is down from a Monmouth poll two weeks ago that found 45% of Americans disapproved of Trump's handling of the crisis and 50% approved.

Trump's overall performance rating has stayed largely the same. The poll Wednesday found that 49% disapproved of his job as president, while in March the number was 48%, well within the poll's 3.4 percentage point margin of error. Some 44% approved of the job he's doing now, down slightly from 46% in March. And more respondents -- 43% -- said they trusted their governor more than the president on coronavirus information, compared with 15% who trusted Trump more. Over half of Americans, 54%, say the federal government has not done enough to address the pandemic.

"Most Americans disagree with the Trump administration's position that the federal government is a backup to the states," said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. "The public seems to view this as a national crisis that requires a national response on par with the aggressive approach taken by the states."

More than one in three Americans cited Anthony Fauci, the doctor who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is a prominent member of Trump's coronavirus task force, as the public official they trust most on the coronavirus pandemic. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was next with 23%, followed by Trump with 20%. -- Emma Kinery

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