9.13.19 / Press Releases

Partnership Statement On Tonight’s Democratic Presidential Debate

WASHINGTON – The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future issued the following statement regarding tonight’s Democratic presidential debate:

“Tonight’s debate once again highlighted the unaffordable costs and substantial risks American families would face under new government-controlled health insurance systems like Medicare for all, Medicare buy-in and the public option” said Lauren Crawford Shaver, executive director of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future.  “It’s been well documented that Medicare for all would force Americans to pay more and wait longer for worse care, and now Americans are learning that the same is true of so-called ‘moderate’ fallbacks like buy-in and the public option.  In reality, the public option would lead to higher premiums and fewer choices for families.  Instead of raising costs and risking the health care of the roughly 90 percent of Americans who are covered today, our leaders should focus on building upon what is working and fixing what is broken.  That’s what the majority of Americans, including most Democrats, want.”

new national poll released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation “probes Democrats’ views about the general approaches to expanding health coverage and lowering costs” and finds that “[m]ost Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (55%) say they prefer a candidate who would build on the Affordable Care Act to achieve those goals.  Fewer (40%) prefer a candidate who would replace the ACA with a Medicare-for-all plan.”  A separate poll released by Kaiser in July found support for Medicare for all on the decline, as “a larger share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would prefer lawmakers build on the existing ACA” and “the share of Democrats who now say they ‘strongly favor’ a national Medicare-for-all plan is down” 12 percentage points in the three months since Kaiser last asked the question.

And, as in past polling, Kaiser’s new survey also found that “large shares” express uncertainty about what proposed new government-controlled insurance systems would mean for them.  The American public’s confusion over one-size-fits-all proposals such as Medicare for all is not surprising.  “Such a sweeping overhaul of the country’s patchwork health insurance system hasn’t been attempted before,” The Washington Post reports, “and even though the 2020 contenders frequently mention it, they tend to shy away from details on exactly how the whole thing would work.”

Yet another national poll conducted earlier this year by Kaiser revealed that support for Medicare for all “drops as low as -44 percentage points” when people find out it would “lead to delays in some people getting some medical tests and treatments,” and “is also negative if people hear it would threaten the current Medicare program (-28 percentage points), require most Americans to pay more in taxes (-23 percentage points), or eliminate private health insurance companies (-21 percentage points).”  And Voter Vitals – the Partnership’s new quarterly tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states – finds that a majority of Democratic voters are unwilling to pay any more in taxes for universal coverage and a supermajority of Democrats (69 percent) support building and improving on what we have today over new government insurance systems.

The Washington Post confirms this in a recent story headlined “Why 2020 Democrats are backing off Medicare-for-all, in four charts,” that “[p]olls show why they’re doing this.  On the surface, the idea sounds as if it would appeal to voters.”  But when voters are made aware of the many negative consequences of such a system, including the elimination of private insurance and need for higher taxes, support drops.

The Washington Post previously reported that “Democrats in swing districts are increasingly worried that the outspoken embrace of Medicare-for-all by Bernie Sanders and other top Democratic presidential hopefuls could hurt their chances of keeping the House in 2020,” while The New York Times reports that some Democratic governors are “anxious” and “alarmed that their party’s presidential candidates are embracing policies they see as unrealistic and politically risky.  And they are especially concerned about proposals that would eliminate private health insurance.”  The Washington Post also noted recently that by “veer[ing] left,” Democratic presidential hopefuls are “leaving behind [the party’s] successful midterm strategy.”

While some continue to promote the public option as a more “moderate” alternative to Medicare for all, some 2020 contenders and others readily acknowledge such an approach would lead to the same one-size-fits-all government-run system.  Voter Vitals finds that “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 a recent flash poll conducted by Forbes Tate Partners on behalf of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF) which reveals that voters prioritize improving our current health care system over offering a new government insurance system, often referred to as the “public option.”

And, in a story headlined “How a Medicare Buy-In or Public Option Could Threaten Obamacare,” The New York Times reports that “a public option may well threaten the A.C.A. in unexpected ways.”

A government plan, even a Medicare buy-in, could shrink the number of customers buying policies on the Obamacare markets, making them less appealing for leading insurers, according to many health insurers, policy analysts and even some Democrats … [A] buy-in shift in insurance coverage could profoundly unsettle the nation’s private health sector, which makes up almost a fifth of the United States economy.  Depending on who is allowed to sign up for the plan, it could also rock the employer-based system that now covers some 160 million Americans … Siphoning off such a large group of customers could also lead to a 10 percent increase in premiums for the remaining pool of insured people, according to the Blue Cross analysis.  More younger people with expensive medical conditions have enrolled than insurers expected, and insurers would have to increase premiums to cover their costs, Mr. Haltmeyer said.  Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies insurance markets, said a government buy-in that attracted older Americans could indeed raise premiums for those who remained in the A.C.A. markets, especially if those consumers had high medical costs … Dr. David Blumenthal, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that funds health care research, said a government plan that attracted people with expensive conditions could prove costly.  “You might, as a taxpayer, become concerned that they would be more like high-risk pools,” he said.

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