12.3.19 / Updates

The New York Times: “Democrats Increasingly Vocal In Calling ‘Medicare For All’ A Political Liability”

WASHINGTON – As the higher taxes and harmful consequences of one-size-fits-all government health insurance systems are made increasingly clear to voters, “[p]rominent Democratic leaders are sounding increasingly vocal alarms to try to halt political momentum for ‘Medicare for all,’” The New York Times reports:

From Michigan to Georgia, North Dakota to Texas, Democratic elected officials, strategists and pollsters are warning that the party’s commitment to the Obama-era Affordable Care Act – widely seen as critical to electoral gains in 2018 and 2019 – could slip away as a political advantage in 2020 if Republicans seize on Medicare for all … “When you say Medicare for all, it’s a risk.  It makes people feel afraid,” said Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, who headed a successful national effort as chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association, to win governor’s mansions in Kentucky and Louisiana this month. 

… Warnings are being issued at all levels of the Democratic Party,from union members who fear losing hard-won benefits, to candidates running in swing districts, all the way up to former President Barack Obama, who offered a pointed warning about the risks of overreach at a gathering of donors in Washington, D.C., this month … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was even more critical this month: “I’m not a big fan of Medicare for all,” she told Bloomberg Television.

… [P]olling indicates that voters in key battleground states have grown more skeptical of implementing Medicare for all.  A survey released this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report found that nearly two-thirds of swing voters in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin rated a Medicare for all plan that would eliminate private insurance as a “bad idea,” …  A new analysis of the 2018 elections found that Democrats who supported Medicare for all in the closest House races did worse than those who did not.

Previous reporting has also made clear the political risks of embracing a one-size-fits-all new government health insurance system:

  • A recent report, published by the University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball, finds that “the performance of 2018 Democratic House candidates shows that those who supported Medicare for All performed worse than those who did not,” and warns that “presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results.” 
  • The Washington Post reports 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.”
  • The Hill reports that “[c]entrist Democrats who helped their party win back the House majority with victories in key swing districts last fall are sounding the alarm that the liberal push for ‘Medicare for all’ could haunt them as they try to defend their seats and keep control of the House.”
  • “[A] majority of those [Democratic Members] who flipped their seats from red to blue focused on strengthening the 2010 health care law and protecting coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions,” Roll Call reports, noting the significant “risks for any politician that proposes dramatic change and uncertainty in a system that is central to Americans’ well-being.”
  • “None of the people that were able to win in tough districts in 2018 ran on Medicare-for-all, and the reason is that they can’t,” Matt Bennett of the centrist Democratic group Third Way explains to CNN.  “People in those districts don’t support it.”
  • As one Democratic strategist put it to The New York Times: “Most of the freshmen who helped take back the House got elected on: ‘We’re going to protect your health insurance even if you have a pre-existing condition,’ not ‘We’re going to take this whole system and throw it out the window.’”
  • The Washington Post reports that by “veer[ing] left,” Democratic presidential hopefuls are “leaving behind [the party’s] successful midterm strategy.”
  • And 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 … Noting that many voters were already uneasy about losing their coverage, [Michigan Governor Gretchen] Whitmer said, ‘I don’t think feeding into that is a good idea.’”

Meanwhile, as some try to paint the public option as a “moderate” alternative to Medicare for All, a new study released by FTI Consulting and the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future reveals that the public option could “eventually cause the elimination of all private plans in the individual market.”  The study finds:

  • After the first 10 years of the public option, more than seven million current enrollees would no longer have private coverage through the marketplaces – with two million of those enrollees being forced off their private plans as insurers exit the marketplaces altogether.
  • The study also warns that the public option could eventually cause the elimination of all private plans in the individual marketplaces, eliminating choice for millions of health care consumers, even those with the resources or subsidies available to cover their preferred plan.
  • In fact, the report finds that by 2050, 70 percent of state marketplaces (34 U.S. states) would no longer offer a single private insurance option.
  • Rural families – millions of whom already find their access to quality care at risk – would be especially hard hit by the public option, the study warns, and could find few if any options available to them.

Another study by KNG Health Consulting, LLC reveals that “Medicare for America,” a proposed new government-controlled health insurance system, could force one-third of American workers off of their current employer provided health care coverage, also known as employer-sponsored insurance (ESI).  And The Wall Street Journal reports that new government health insurance systems like the public option, Medicare buy-in and ‘Medicare for all who want it,’ represent “stepping stones to single payer.”  

An earlier study, conducted by Navigant 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,” while RevCycleIntelligence also reports“[p]atient access to care suffers when a rural hospital closes its doors for good, and consequently, patient outcomes can deteriorate.”

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