September 6, 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 some lawmakers and 2020 presidential hopefuls push for the so-called “public option,” headlines continue to warn about the threats that families and rural hospitals would face under this new government health insurance system.  In the early Democratic caucus state of Iowa, The Gazette (Cedar Rapids) reports in a story headlined “52 Rural Iowa Hospitals At Risk Of Closing Under Public Option, Analysis Shows”:

Iowa’s rural hospitals could experience a loss of more than $476 million dollars under a public health insurance proposal, putting dozens at high risk for closure, according to an analysis.  Iowa’s rural health care facilities long have faced challenges due to Medicare reimbursement rates.  But the analysis said those hospitals could be confronted with an even bigger detriment if a public option is implemented using Medicare reimbursement rates … Chicago-based data company Navigant released an analysis this past month that studies the impact of a public option, a proposal to create a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurance companies … If a public option plan would go into effect, the study found that between 25 and 52 of Iowa’s 90 rural hospitals would be at high financial risk for closure due to a loss of millions in revenue.

And in The Detroit News, Veronica Horn, President and CEO of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce in the swing state of Michigan, warns of the harm the public option could bring to Michigan families:

Once again, Michigan is poised to be a battleground state in the upcoming presidential election in 2020.So if a presidential candidate were to offer a health care plan that would put 60% of our rural hospitals “at high risk of closure,” do you think they’d do well here?  Obviously not, and yet that’s exactly the damage that a so-called “public option” could do to our state, according to a study recently released.  Nationwide, a public option … could threaten more than 1,000 – up to 55% – of rural hospitals … not only threatening patient access to care, but also roughly 420,000 much-needed jobs.  What’s more, even if the availability of a public option didn’t shut down a rural hospital entirely, it could still jeopardize access and diminish the quality of care patients receive and many facilities would be forced to eliminate services and reduce staff. 

The new study, conducted by Navigant, 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.”  As RevCycleIntelligence also reports“[p]atient access to care suffers when a rural hospital closes its doors for good, and consequently, patient outcomes can deteriorate.”
And as 2020 presidential hopefuls prepare to take the debate stage next week, candidates would do well to keep recent polling in mind.  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.”  This tracks closely with recent polling conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which finds that the majority of Americans, including Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, want our elected officials to build and improve upon what’s working.



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