8.2.19 / 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:

In a story headlined “How a Medicare Buy-In or Public Option Could Threaten Obamacare,” The New York Times reports that the “public option may well threaten the A.C.A. in unexpected ways” and could “raise premiums” … “rock the employer-based system that now covers some 160 million Americans,” and “prove costly” for taxpayers.  The report echoed the concerns laid out in an opinion piece by Lauren Crawford Shaver of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which was published this week by The Wall Street Journal.  She wrote:

By design, a public option would cause major disruptions to the marketplace where consumers currently choose coverage that meets their needs, driving up premiums for Americans on private plans and forcing more and more people into the government system until it is the only option that remains. Research revealed that under one such system U.S. hospitals would be hit with $62 billion in cuts that “would compound financial stresses they are already facing, potentially impacting access to care and provider quality.”  This diminished access to quality care would come as hospitals are forced to lay off health-care professionals, scale back specialized care programs or even close their doors.

And, as Democratic presidential hopefuls took the debate stage in Michigan, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future launched its first national television ad, part of a six-figure television and digital campaign, as first reported by The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, The Detroit News reported that a new poll reveals that a majority of the state’s voters oppose Medicare for all, and a new national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that support for Medicare for all is on the decline, as “a larger share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would prefer lawmakers build on the existing ACA.”  As CNN reports, the poll finds that views regarding a new government insurance program, called the “public option,” “can swing wildly depending on what additional information people receive … [S]upport wanes if people hear that doctors and hospitals would be paid less or that a public option would lead to too much government involvement in health care.”

  • This tracks closely with a poll released this week by the Partnership, which reveals that voters prioritize improving our current health care system over offering a “public option.”  The poll, first reported by POLITICO, also finds that majorities “believe that negative outcomes, such as increased taxes and fewer employer-based options, are more likely to occur than positive ones if a government health care program that people could choose were put into place – and most believe it would be unlikely to improve their health care or that of their family.”

And while both CNN and CBS highlighted union members’ opposition to Medicare for all, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) became the latest prominent Democrat to warn that a nominee who embraces a one-size-fits-all system “may hurt the party in the general election,” the Washington Examiner reports.

Earlier this week, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) rolled out a proposed one-size-fits-all government-run system that the Partnership explained would force Americans “to pay more to wait longer for worse care,” despite Harris’s efforts to to position her proposal as a middle ground between Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) Medicare for all legislation – of which Harris is a co-sponsor – and the “public option” supported by former Vice President Joe Biden.  At New York Magazine, Eric Levitz writes of Senator Harris’s claim that her system would not raise taxes on middle-class families: “In policy terms, this is the opposite of hard-nosed realism.  Very few left-wing economists – including those who contend that America’s fiscal deficit is too low – believe that the U.S. can afford to establish Medicare for All without charging families that earn $90,000 a year any premiums or new taxes.

  • After Tuesday’s debate, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) refused to answer “no fewer than ten times” when asked in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews whether Americans would pay higher taxes under the Medicare for all system she supports.
Finally, the Associated Press reported this week that “[g]overnment surveys show that about 90% of the population has coverage, largely preserving gains from President Barack Obama’s years.  Independent experts estimate that more than one-half of the roughly 30 million uninsured people in the country are eligible for health insurance through existing programs.”
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