Political Check-Up: Hillary Clinton

In this second article in our series on presidential candidates, we look at how a Hillary Clinton presidency might affect physicians' work and their wallets.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The former First Lady, a seasoned politician in her own right, seems like a sure bet to represent her party in the next election for president, only for an out-of-nowhere upstart to mount a spirited challenge that turns from mildly intriguing to a stunning defeat. Yes, this was the exact scenario when then-little-known Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton eight years ago. And unless Clinton can appeal to the younger members of the Democratic Party, who are currently flocking to Bernie Sanders, her fate will remain the same.

Still, Clinton has refrained from panic, and her strength in key Democratic demographics give her more than a fighting chance for a different result this time around. What would a Hillary Clinton Presidency look like for your finances and for healthcare overall?

Money to the Middle

Clinton’s economic principles and top priority have been on wide display in both this primary season and throughout her political career. Put simply, she would focus her economic efforts on strengthening the middle class to greater access to education and through a commitment to growing the economy and redistributing that growth so that it is more evenly distributed. “Even distribution” is often a negative-sounding term for physicians and others who are typically in higher tax brackets. But the Clinton plan, while it does include tax breaks for the middle class, isn’t entirely based on taxing the “rich.” She seeks growth through investing in two key pieces of infrastructure—education and small business development.

Several of her planned initiatives, including a plan for making higher education more affordable and accessible, would benefit taxpayers in all brackets. To pay for this ambitious plan, which she calls the “New College Compact,” she would close tax loopholes—such as the infamous carried interest tax loophole—and increase some capital gains taxes. While physicians could see higher taxes as a result of these changes, the greatest impact would be on those whose earnings are in a little different neighborhood: $5 million and up. Clinton’s small business stimulus would offer a tax credit for businesses that distribute profits to employees. Also potentially of interest to physicians, her plan includes significant investment in scientific and clinical research.

Some financial experts, particularly those who believe in the power of the markets, question whether many of Clinton’s economic ideas would in fact lead to either short- or long-term growth. Clinton’s stated goal of substantially increasing the minimum wage, for example, has long split economists into those who believe it spurs the economy and those who believe it has a deleterious effect. Others have rightly pointed out that Clinton’s tightening of the tax code and increased taxing of the wealthy still leave somewhere in the neighborhood of a $40 billion gap between what will be collected and her new spending plans.

Expansion of the Affordable Care Act

As President, Clinton would seek to expand the ACA, with a focus on expanding access to rural Americans, slowing the overall cost of healthcare by lowering co-payments and deductibles and reducing the cost of prescription drugs. Late last year, Clinton angered the Obama Administration by suggesting that she would repeal the law’s planned tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance—the controversial “Cadillac tax” that the current administration sees as key to the legislation’s long-term success.

The Cadillac tax is a political dilemma for Clinton as Sanders continues to strengthen. Her stance on the Cadillac tax has opened her up to criticism that she is simply embracing popular parts of the law and discrediting others to pander to influential groups. Labor unions, for example always influential in Democratic political races, are strongly opposed to the Cadillac tax. Clinton is staunchly supportive of a woman’s right to choose; as a New York Senator, pressed for access to emergency contraception. She is a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. Clinton would also expand access to telemedicine and other low-cost care options for under-served communities.

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