Joe Biden returns to Michigan, focusing on health care in Southfield

Southfield — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is back Friday in Michigan, where he plans to focus on health care in Southfield and encourage voter participation in Detroit.

The former vice president is set to first speak in a gymnasium at the Beech Woods Recreation Center, where the backdrop says, “Protect and build on the Affordable Care Act,” referring to the health care reform law championed by former President Barack Obama.

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Biden’s visit occurs a day before President Donald Trump will be in Muskegon on Saturday and 18 days before the Nov. 3 election. The Republican won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016, his smallest margin of victory nationally.

This is Biden’s third visit to Michigan since the beginning of September. He stopped in Detroit and Warren on Sept. 9 and spoke in Grand Rapids on Oct. 2.

Health care has become one of the top issues in the presidential race as Trump’s administration backs a lawsuit that’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act. The federal law, put in place under Obama, expanded health care coverage to millions of people nationally and barred insurance companies from denying coverage from people with preexisting conditions.

The former vice president says he wants to protect the Affordable Care Act, increase the value of tax credits to lower premiums and give people the option to purchase a public health insurance plan.

During a stop in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence contended that Biden’s plans would amount to a “government takeover” of health care. The public option would send America on a path to “socialized medicine,” Pence said.

Conservative critics have argued that creating a public option eventually would result in the federal government tilting the playing field toward government health plans that compete with private health plans and paving the way for a single-payer or totally government-funded health care system. 

The Trump administration, Pence said, has worked to lower the cost of prescription drugs and expand access to life-saving medicine.

“We are going to have health care that protects preexisting conditions and lowers the cost of health insurance without growing the size of government,” the Republican vice president said.

But Trump’s campaign hasn’t been specific about how it would accomplish the goals if the Affordable Care Act were struck down by the Supreme Court — something Democrats have emphasized. Legal analysts have debated whether the Supreme Court would rule a part of the federal law unconstitutional and leave the other parts in place — a legal principle known as severability.

Biden will also participate in an event in Detroit to urge Michigan residents to vote early in person at their local clerk’s office.

Detroit is Michigan’s largest city, located in the state’s largest county, Wayne County, a Democratic stronghold. However, in 2016, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received 76,000 fewer voters than Obama did four years earlier.

Biden’s stops could also help bolster his popularity with African-American voters, who have been one of the strengths of his campaign. Detroit’s population is more than 80% Black, while Southfield’s is 70%.

Southfield is located in Oakland County, a key battleground this fall that’s been trending against Republicans. Three state House seats, currently held by Republicans, are up for election in the county that Democrats are hoping to flip on Nov. 3.

Trump lost Oakland County by 8 percentage points to Clinton in 2016. Two years later, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette lost the county by 17 percentage points to Democrat Gretchen Whitmer.

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