June 21, 2019 | Updates

THE WEEKLY SCAN: Key Stories In The Debate On America’s Health Care Future

Good Friday afternoon, and welcome to the Weekly Scan.  Here are some of the key stories you may have missed in the debate on America’s health care future:

As Democratic presidential candidates prepare to take the debate stage in Florida next week, a new national poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation reveals that “majorities of Americans are unaware of the kind of dramatic changes that [Medicare for all] would bring to the nation’s health care system.”

As POLITICO reported, “[m]any Americans have fundamental misconceptions about ‘Medicare for All,’ such as believing it would be optional or they could keep their private insurance.”  And as HuffPost added, “[t]he lack of understanding about Medicare for All is consistent with some other recent polls, including a new online survey from Navigator Research in which a majority of respondents and a large majority of Democrats failed to realize that Medicare for All would effectively wipe out existing private coverage.”  But, as The Washington Post reports,“[t]here’s one thing Americans understand about Medicare-for-all: It would mean higher taxes … Americans seem most familiar with the fact that Medicare-for-all would require massively higher taxes.”

Notably the new Kaiser poll finds that Medicare for all doesn’t rank among Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent voters’ top health care priorities, as reported by CNN:

Democratic politicians have made health care a major part of their campaigns, and that’s in line with the priorities of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.  Some 87% say it’s “very important” for candidates in the upcoming debates to discuss the topic, topping a list that includes women’s issues, climate change, gun policy and income inequality.  Implementing a Medicare for All-type system, however, doesn’t rank as high when looking at health care topics … Medicare for All comes in at 15%, just below protecting the ACA and protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

This is in line with the findings of a previous national survey by Kaiser, which found that most Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents “say they want Democrats in Congress to focus their efforts on improving and protecting the ACA,” not pursuing Medicare for all.

Elected leaders should also be wary of so-called “moderate” proposals often branded “public option” or “Medicare buy-in.”  These plans are simply stepping stones to a one-size-fits-all system and would ultimately have the same negative consequences, as “cutting payments to providers could affect hospital care and attract fewer doctors and specialists,” NBC News reports.

Concerns about high costs and lower-quality care are also plaguing efforts to push one-size-fits-all systems at the state-level in Massachusetts and New York. In Massachusetts, The Associated Press reports that a one-size-fits-all government-run system “doesn’t appear likely in the near future.” Probably because, as The Boston Globe notes, the state-level “so-called Medicare for All legislation would raise taxes and eliminate private health insurance while putting the state in charge of all payments to doctors and hospitals,” and “calls for a series of payroll and capital gains tax hikes, to generate an estimated $15 billion to $20 billion a year.  For a middle-class family, that could be an additional $15,000 in taxes per year,” according to the bill’s author.

And a similar proposal in New York is also earning bipartisan criticism, as Newsday reports that the proposed state-level one-size-fits-all system “would lead to higher taxes and deep revenue cuts at area hospitals, experts said”at a meeting of the Long Island Association.  At the same time, “[t]he bill doesn’t have a specific funding plan.  But it calls for higher capital-gains taxes and a new payroll tax,” The Wall Street Journal reports.  The need for massive tax hikes on working New Yorkers under a government-run system led the state’s Democratic Governor, Andrew Cuomo, to warn previously that “no sane person will pass it,” and “you’d double everybody’s taxes” to pay for it.

Lawmakers in Boston and Albany should remember that similar state-level efforts to implement one-size-fits-all systems, most notably in neighboring Vermont, failed “when it became clear that people would not support the tax increases needed to sustain such a program,” as The New York Times editorial board noted recently.



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