12.30.19 / Updates

2019: Tough Year For New Government-Controlled Health Insurance Systems

Support For One-Size-Fits-All Systems Drops As Americans Learn Of Unaffordable Costs & Negative Consequences

WASHINGTON – As 2019 draws to a close, the debate over America’s health care future is markedly different than at the start of the year.  Medicare for All – which began the year as a “litmus test” for presidential hopefuls – has become increasingly unpopular as voters learn of the unaffordable tax increases, longer wait times and lower quality of care that would result.  

In April, 14 Senators, including four running for president, had signed onto Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) Medicare for All bill.  “But what seemed like a bold stroke for the senators at the time would come back to haunt many of them … the health care debate this year has put the left on the defensive … The casualty list is extensive,” POLITICO reports.  Today, supporters of Medicare for All are “reeling after seeing the Democratic health care debate shift dramatically in their direction the past few years,” POLITICO adds.

Poll after poll helps explain why.  As voters learn about the unaffordable costs and other negative consequences American families would face under proposed new government-controlled health insurance systems, support drops.  The same is true of so-called “moderate” alternatives to Medicare for All – namely Medicare buy-in and the public option – which would cause the same negative consequences over time as Medicare for All would produce overnight.  Recent national polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that support for the public option is declining.

In fact, the second edition of Voter Vitals – a tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states by Locust Street Group for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future – finds that “as voters learn more about new government-run health care proposals, support for them is declining with a majority of voters preferring to build on and improve what we have today rather than start over with Medicare for All or the public option.” 

Throughout the year, studies and experts confirmed that Medicare for All would cause American families to pay more to wait longer for worse care.  In fact, Medicare for All “would cost more than $50 trillion over 10 years,” Yahoo! Finance reports.  The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) finds that “fully offsetting the cost would require higher taxes on the middle class,” and would “require the equivalent of tripling payroll taxes or more than doubling all other taxes.” 

And in a report released this spring, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warns that a one-size-fits-all government-controlled health insurance system, would “put pressure on the available supply of care … [I]f the number of providers was not sufficient to meet demand, patients might face increased wait times and reduced access to care.”  

Studies and experts also confirmed this year that the public option, Medicare buy-in and Medicare for America would ultimately lead to the same consequences as Medicare for All.  As The New York Times reported recently, the public option “could be plenty disruptive” and “tilt in the same direction” as Medicare for All.  This is backed up by the findings of a new study, conducted by FTI Consulting for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which reveals the public option could eliminate consumer choice for millions of Americans and “eventually cause the elimination of all private plans in the individual market.”  

Meanwhile, a study released this fall by KNG Health Consulting, LLC for the Partnership reveals that “Medicare for America,” another proposed new government-controlled health insurance system, could force one-third of American workers off of their current employer-provided health care coverage, also known as employer-sponsored insurance (ESI).  And The Wall Street Journal reports that new government-controlled health insurance systems like the public option, Medicare buy-in and ‘Medicare for all who want it,’ represent “stepping stones to single payer.” 

An additional study, conducted earlier this year by Navigant for the Partnership, finds that the public option could put more than 1,000 rural U.S. hospitals in 46 states “at high risk of closure.”  These hospitals serve more than 60 million Americans, and as Kaiser Health News and NPR reporthospital closures can have “profound social, emotional and medical consequences,” while RevCycleIntelligence also reports“[p]atient access to care suffers when a rural hospital closes its doors for good, and consequently, patient outcomes can deteriorate.”

And economists agree that the public option would burden American families with unaffordable costs.  “The public option would cause premiums for private insurance to skyrocket,” economist Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford University writes in The Wall Street Journal.  “A single-payer option is not a moderate, compromise proposal.  Its inevitable consequence is the death of affordable private insurance … Massive taxation would be needed to expand Medicare, whether optionally or not,” Atlas continues. 

Heading into the new year, lawmakers should build on what’s working and come together to fix what isn’t, instead of starting over with a new government-controlled health insurance system.

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