WASHINGTON – As supporters of Medicare for all continue to face tough questions about its crippling provider payment cuts, a report by The Washington Post is yet another reminder of the extreme risks a one-size-fits-all health care system would pose to rural hospitals, which already face “doctor shortages and historically low operating margins” and “have suffered disproportionately from government cuts to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates.” They write:
A record 46 percent of rural hospitals lost money last year. More than 400 are classified by health officials as being at “high risk of imminent failure.” Hundreds more have cut services or turned over control to outside ownership groups in an attempt to stave off closure.
Recently, The New York Times reported that experts are growing increasingly concerned about the “violent upheaval” hospitals and those who depend on them would experience under Medicare for all:
If Medicare for all abolished private insurance and reduced rates to Medicare levels – at least 40 percent lower, by one estimate – there would most likely be significant changes throughout the health care industry, which makes up 18 percent of the nation’s economy and is one of the nation’s largest employers. Some hospitals, especially struggling rural centers, would close virtually overnight, according to policy experts. Others, they say, would try to offset the steep cuts by laying off hundreds of thousands of workers and abandoning lower-paying services like mental health.
Recent studies have also laid bare the negative impacts Medicare for all would have on providers and patients throughout the country:
- One study, prepared by KNG Health Consulting for the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals found: “For hospitals, the introduction of a public plan that reimburses providers using Medicare rates would compound financial stresses they are already facing, potentially impacting access to care and provider quality.”
- Another recent study, conducted by Navigant, found that Medicare for all-style proposals – including “Medicare buy-in” or so-called “public option” proposals – could force hospitals to limit the care they provide, produce significant “layoffs” and “potentially force the closure of essential hospitals.”
Medicare for all’s cuts to hospitals and their dangerous impact on communities and patients are one of many reasons experts are expressing alarm about a one-size-fits-all government-run system. As Kaiser Health News noted in a recent story about Medicare for all:
Every analyst interviewed for this story floated some kind of concern regarding a Medicare-for-all system. There’s the issue of how people would respond to losing the option of private insurance — a likely consequence of Sanders’ proposal — and the question of what level of tax hikes would be necessary to finance such a system, particularly if it covers a big-ticket item such as long-term care. There are also concerns about the financial impact for hospitals, often large employers in a community, or for the private insurance industry jobs that would likely disappear.