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:

This week, former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and former Democratic Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman became the latest prominent Democrats to warn against the dangers – both politically and practically – of Medicare for all.  VICE News reports that “Reid was blunt when asked if he thought supporting Medicare for All would be problematic in the 2020 general election.  ‘Of course it would be,’ he said.  ‘How are you going to get it passed?’”  Yesterday, Lieberman said he “couldn’t agree with [Reid’s comments] more.  He added:

Medicare-for-all sounds good as a slogan — it will cost an enormous amount of money.  Bernie Sanders himself said everybody’s taxes, including the middle class, will go up … If people want to improve the system they should tinker with [the] Affordable Care Act … Don’t do something so big that it will turn against them next year.

This criticism comes as many 2020 presidential hopefuls struggle to explain their positions on the one-size-fits-all government-run insurance system.  “What I think has happened in the Democratic primary is people recognize that some of the concerns about single-payer are not coming from special interests but the public,” Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former Hillary Clinton aide, told The Washington Post.   “Polls show why they’re doing this.  On the surface, the idea sounds as if it would appeal to voters,” The Post also reports.  But when voters are made aware of the many negative consequences of such a system, including the elimination of private insurance and the need for higher taxes, support drops.  The Post notes:

But notice how support declines when people are told that such a program would require getting rid of private insurance … That question didn’t even dig into the potentially politically troublesome detail of how such a plan would be implemented.  Providing health care for all Americans would cost billions of dollars, so taxes on the middle class would go up.  A January Kaiser Health News poll shows a majority of Americans, 60 percent, flat-out opposed Medicare-for-all if that were the case … At the past two presidential debates, Sanders (I-Vt.) was the only candidate to clearly and explicitly acknowledge that the plan would require raising taxes …The other candidates seem to find it politically untenable to simply say, yes, voters’ taxes would go up, and then explain why.

And while Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), who earlier this week “admitted … that she had been uncomfortable with Sen. [Bernie] Sanders’ version of Medicare-for-All,” her embrace of other types of government-run insurance systems is just as problematic and unpopular amongst voters.  Harris’s own Medicare for all plan, which she rolled out amid intense criticism weeks ago, would still eliminate employer-provided insurance and force middle-class families to pay higher taxes.

As others continue to promote the public option as a more “moderate” alternative to Medicare for all, Lauren Crawford Shaver, the Partnership’s executive director, explains in an interview that a new study by Navigant finds such a system could put more than half of rural U.S. hospitals at a high risk of closure.  Virginia Public Radio reports:

As many as 10 rural hospitals in Virginia could close if the federal government starts offering a public option health plan — the kind of public option that’s now being talked about on the campaign trail by former Vice President Joe Biden and others … Lauren Crawford Shaver … says the lower reimbursement rates from the government plan would put a squeeze on rural hospitals.  “Those communities are already typically underserved and do not have access to all of the newest and most advanced medical treatment or physicians and specialists,” Crawford Shaver says.  “They are going to have to even travel further to get the care that they need and will have fewer options in getting that.”

Meanwhile the first edition of Voter Vitals – a new quarterly tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states – finds that “a clear majority of voters nationwide are primed to reject new government-run systems that will cost voters more to 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.” 

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