WASHINGTON – Across the country, headlines continue to warn about the threats that patients and rural hospitals would face under a new government insurance system known as the public option.  But as some 2020 presidential candidates continue to push for this unaffordable system, Veronica Horn, President and CEO of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce in the swing state of Michigan, warns of the harm the public option could bring to Michigan families.  In The Detroit News, she writes:

Once again, Michigan is poised to be a battleground state in the upcoming presidential election in 2020. So if a presidential candidate were to offer a health care plan that would put 60% of our rural hospitals “at high risk of closure,” do you think they’d do well here?  Obviously not, and yet that’s exactly the damage that a so-called “public option” could do to our state, according to a study recently released.  Nationwide, a public option … could threaten more than 1,000 – up to 55% – of rural hospitals … not only threatening patient access to care, but also roughly 420,000 much-needed jobs.  What’s more, even if the availability of a public option didn’t shut down a rural hospital entirely, it could still jeopardize access and diminish the quality of care patients receive and many facilities would be forced to eliminate services and reduce staff.  The last thing we need is a lower standard of care and longer wait times … If this is what a public option would do, just imagine what Medicare for all might throw our way.  Instead of taking us down this road, candidates and national leaders need to stay focused on making incremental improvements to strengthen and stabilize our current health care system.  A public option will not do that.

A recent study, conducted by Navigant Consulting, Inc. for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, 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.”  Notably, a separate study released by Navigant in March found that the public option could cause increased financial stress, force hospitals to limit the care they provide, drive significant “layoffs” and “potentially force the closure of essential hospitals.”

Meanwhile, the first edition of Voter Vitals – a new quarterly tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states – finds that “[h]ealth care will be the defining issue of the 2020 presidential election.  However, a clear majority of voters nationwide are primed to reject new government-run systems that will cost voters more to expand coverage like Medicare for All, the public option, and Medicare buy-in.  Most voters want candidates to lower costs, build on what’s working and fix what’s broken – not start over.”  This tracks closely with recent polling conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which finds that the majority of Americans, including Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, want our elected officials to build and improve upon on our current system.

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