8.16.19 / 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:

Yesterday, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future launched the first edition of Voter Vitals – a new quarterly tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states – which finds that “[h]ealth care will be the defining issue of the 2020 presidential election.  However, a clear majority of voters nationwide are primed to reject new government-run systems that will cost voters moreto 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.”

  • “A majority of Democratic, swing, and Republican voters are clear that they are not willing to pay any more in taxes for universal coverage.  They’re looking for health care policies that lower rising health care costs more than anything else,” said Phillip Morris, Partner of Locust Street Group, who conducted the survey.

Meanwhile, in the early 2020 caucus state of Iowa, a poll from Monmouth University also finds that “Iowa Democratic voters overwhelmingly rank health care as their top issue in choosing a presidential nominee,” POLITICO reports.  “But there’s still confusion over what Democratic contenders’ individual health care plans would actually mean.”  And the most recent round of “Democratic debates didn’t do much to clarify candidates’ plans for health care,” CNBC adds.

  • This lack of clarity is no surprise, as The Washington Post has reported that “even though the 2020 contenders frequently mention [Medicare for all], they tend to shy away from details on exactly how the whole thing would work.”  Shedding light on why, polling has shown thatmost Americans oppose Medicare for all once they know what it is, and most Democratic voters favor strengthening the Affordable Care Act over pursuing Medicare for all.  A national poll conducted earlier this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation 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).”
Perhaps this is why Gene Lyons, a columnist for the Chicago Sun Times, warns Democrats to steer clear of proposals like Medicare for all, calling it “an excellent way for Democrats to lose in 2020.”  He writes: “Whether proposed by [Sen. Elizabeth Warren], [Sen. Bernie] Sanders, Sen. Kamala Harris or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Medicare-for-All is a dead-bang loser.  Polls show that even strong majorities of Democratic voters are resistant … Colorado put a Bernie-backed single-payer proposal on the ballot in 2016.  It was rejected 80% to 20%.”  Lyons joins other columnists and editorial boards  throughout the nation – including The Washington PostUSA Today and The Wall Street Journal – who have warned of the political and practical dangers of Medicare for all.

And while some candidates attempt to position the public option as a moderate alternative to Medicare for all, Americans are just beginning to understand that they would ultimately lead to the same negative consequences.  In an op-ed for The Hill, Lauren Crawford Shaver, the executive director of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, warns that despite being “deceptively sold as a less risky, more moderate alternative to Medicare for all … a new study shows that in reality the public option could also be very damaging to our rural communities.” She continues:

… The study, from Navigant Consulting, finds that under the public option, our nation’s already-struggling rural hospitals could face severe cuts that would put over half, or 1,037, of U.S. rural hospitals across 46 states “at high-risk of closure.”  Even rural communities’ whose hospitals are not at “high-risk” of closure could face diminished quality of and access to care as rural hospitals would be forced to make cuts. This could lead to the “elimination of services and reduction of clinical and administrative staff, as well as damage the economic foundation of the communities these hospitals serve.” … Not only could the public option harm rural communities, but it would also force all Americans to reckon with massive new costs, unaffordable tax increases and degradation of patients’ access to high-quality care under a system run completely by Washington bureaucrats.
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