June 5, 2019 | Updates

Reality Check: Public Opposition Drives ‘Retreat’ From Medicare For All

WASHINGTON – In advance of next week’s hearing in the House Committee on Ways and Means, which will “cover Medicare for all and ‘other potential pathways to universal coverage,’” it’s a safe bet that supporters of a one-size-fits-all system will continue to falsely claim that most Americans support their effort to eliminate the foundations of American health care, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employer-provided coverage, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid and Medicare.

Recent news reports lay bare the reality: a loss of momentum behind their quest to implement a one-size-fits-all government-run system.

Assessing the extent to which Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) agenda is “stalled,” The Washington Post notes that “[o]ne of his trademark proposals — Medicare-for-all — has attracted fewer co-sponsors in Congress than two years ago.”  A former Washington bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News, meanwhile, points out the “retreat by others from stressing the more liberal policy positions Sanders has championed, like Medicare for all…”

Shedding some light on why, Eric Levitz writes in New York Magazine that “[a] recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 56 percent of Americans favored Medicare for All — until they were told the policy would ‘require most Americans to pay more in taxes,’ at which point support plummeted to 37 percent.  The credibility of this finding is buttressed by the failure of movements for single-payer health care in Vermont and Colorado, where aversion to tax increases fueled opposition.”

As Roll Call reported of the failed effort to implement a Medicare for all-style system in Sanders’s home state of Vermont, Peter Shumlin, the state’s Democratic former governor who campaigned on a platform of one-size-fits-all health care, later admitted that the 11.5 percent payroll tax and 9.5 percent income tax proposed to finance the system were too much for taxpayers to accept: “The final bill was too much for the state to bear, he said.  ‘The biggest problem was money,’ Shumlin said …  And he couldn’t promise lawmakers that they wouldn’t need to hike taxes again later to accommodate rising health care costs.  ‘I couldn’t with a straight face turn to them and say, no, we’ve got this figured out,’ he said.”

And while pointing out Sanders’s “misleading” rhetoric, fact-checkers for The Washington Post noted this week that “[a]ccording to a study from the Urban Institute (and a follow-up paper), Medicare-for-all would still add $32.6 trillion to national health spending over 10 years.  The study goes on to state that Sanders’s proposed tax increase would be insufficient and that additional revenue would be needed.”

The Post’s fact check also noted that “providers warn [Medicare for all] could significantly hurt their ability to provide adequate, widespread care.  A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office reinforces this concern: ‘Such a reduction in provider payment rates would probably reduce the amount of care supplied and could also reduce the quality of care.’”

Notably, these concerns over Americans’ access to quality care also apply to so-called “moderate” fallback proposals, often branded “public option” or “Medicare buy-in,” which some elected officials and 2020 presidential hopefuls are now embracing as Medicare for all “falters” in Congress.

A recent study by Navigant Consulting found that hospitals “could face financial peril,” and the cuts could even “force the closure of essential hospitals” while another study, conducted by KNG Health Consulting, found that a government insurance system like “buy in” or “public option” would “compound financial stresses [hospitals] are already facing, potentially impacting access to care and provider quality.”

In reality, these proposed government insurance programs would lead to the same result Americans so clearly reject: a one-size-fits-all health care system run by Washington.



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