May 23, 2019 | Updates

CBO Confirms: Medicare For All Poses Risks To Consumers, Patients & Taxpayers

WASHINGTON – In a hearing held by the U.S. House Committee on the Budget yesterday, experts from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reiterated their recent findings regarding the risks to consumers, patients and taxpayers under a one-size-fits-all government-run health care system, also known as Medicare for all.

As POLITICO reports of the “sparsely attended session,” CBO experts “testified that Medicare for All is a heavy lift that would ‘require significant additional government resources,’” and “cautioned that the single-payer system may be slower to cover new treatments than private insurers and that lower payments to medical professionals could pose challenges for struggling hospitals.”

Bloomberg reports that Medicare for all “is hitting serious obstacles in the U.S. House in the face of resistance from Democratic leaders concerned that replacing the private insurance system would generate backlash from voters who like their coverage … [T]he effort appears unlikely to go much further.  A bill sponsored by Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington State and 109 other Democrats hasn’t gained much support since its release in February, and the Budget panel’s Democratic chairman said he doesn’t see such legislation advancing any time soon.”

Reiterating previous comments in which he said Medicare for all legislation is “not going anywhere,” Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) again threw cold water on the proposal’s prospects following yesterday’s hearing, POLITICO reports while also noting that “House Democratic leaders, who worry Medicare for All could hurt the party with moderate voters, have allowed hearings on the plan, but they haven’t committed to floor votes.”

In his opening statement, CBO Deputy Director Mark Hadley laid out the risks that consumers, patients and taxpayers could face under Medicare for all:

“First: moving to a single-payer system would be a major undertaking.  It would involve significant changes for all participants: individuals, providers, insurers, employers, manufacturers of drugs and medical devices.  Because health care spending currently accounts for one sixth of our nation’s economic activity, those changes could significantly affect the overall U.S. economy.  And the transition toward a single-payer system could be complicated, challenging and potentially disruptive.”

“Second: To establish a single-payer system, lawmakers would need to make many decisions and would face complex trade-offs. … Under a single-payer system, the government or state would pay a larger share of all national health care costs.  In 2017, private sources such as businesses and households contributed just under half of the $3.5 trillion of total national health care spending.  Shifting such a large amount of expenditures from private to public sources would significantly increase government spending and would require substantial additional government resources … Under a single-payer system, provider payment rates could be based on rates paid by Medicare, Medicaid, commercial insurance or some other measure.  Medicare payment rates are substantially lower than commercial payment rates on average.  If provider payment rates were set at Medicare’s rates rather than average commercial rates … the amount of care supplied and the quality of that care might diminish.”

“… The final set of issues relates to people’s access to health care … If the supply of services was not sufficient to meet the demand for care, patients would face increased wait times and reduced access to care … Participants would not have a choice of insurer or health benefits, however.  The public plan would provide the same set of health care services to everyone eligible, so it might not address the needs of some people.  For example, the public plan might not be as quick to cover new treatments and new technologies as would a system of competing private insurers.”

Leading up to yesterday’s hearing, high-profile editorial boards including The Washington Post and USA Today took heed of the CBO’s warnings, and the Chicago Tribune recently noted that there are many practical ways to expand coverage that “don’t require a federal takeover of health insurance” like Medicare for all.

Notably, some Members of Congress have suggested so-called “buy-in” or “public option” schemes as more moderate alternatives to Medicare for all.  In reality, any proposed government insurance system would recklessly expand already at-risk public programs and function as a slippery slope to a one-size-fits-all system run by the government.

Today, with nearly 90 percent of Americans covered and a majority satisfied with their health care, our leaders should be improving and building on what works in American health care – not scrapping the progress we have made in order to start from scratch with a one-size-fits-all system that would force families to pay more, eliminate consumers’ choices and control, and threaten patients’ access to quality care while putting their health care decisions in the hands of Washington bureaucrats.



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