September 20, 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 health care continues to dominate the Democratic presidential primary, some candidates are trying to paint their calls for a new government-controlled health insurance system – known as the public option – as a more moderate alternative to Medicare for all.  But the fact is, these plans would ultimately lead to the same harmful results, while causing premiums to “skyrocket” and threatening the care millions of Americans, particularly those in rural communities, depend upon.

In light of the latest push for a new government-run health insurance system by a 2020 presidential candidate, the Partnership released a statement reminding Americans that whether it’s called the public option, Medicare buy-in, or ‘Medicare for all who want it,’ they “would ultimately lead to a one-size-fits-all system that would cause Americans to pay more and wait longer for worse care … These proposals are not ‘moderate’ alternatives to Medicare for all, as some would claim, and would put too much control over Americans’ health care in the hands of politicians.” 

  • This has been readily acknowledged by journalists, analysts and Democratic presidential candidates, including presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg who Vox reports has even “framed his plan as a pathway to true Medicare-for-all,” and who emphasized during the first round of debates that the “public option” or “buy-in” system “will be a very natural glide path to the single payer environment.”

To educate Americans about the harmful impact the public option would have, particularly on rural communities, Lauren Crawford Shaver, executive director of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, joined American Radio Journal.  She explained:

Sixty million Americans currently live in rural communities … And they already have hospitals that have very, very razor thin margins and are struggling to stay open … We looked at it and we realized that fifty five percent of rural hospitals would be at high risk of financial closure across the country.  That’s over a thousand hospitals touching 46 states.  So it’s going to have a huge negative impact if you have a public option and when they shift people onto it, these hospitals aren’t going to be able to sustain themselves and unfortunately that health care in those communities would really be impacted and people would have to travel further to get the care that they need and want.  And again, just back to that core question I always ask, what are you trying to solve for in any type of health care proposal and to the Partnership the removal of hospitals in those rural communities doesn’t seem like a step forward.

And as the unaffordable costs of new government-controlled insurance systems become increasingly clear, more Democrats are sounding alarm bells about the political and practical risks.  Appearing on CNBC this week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her fellow Democrats to focus on building and improving upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA), rather than eliminating every American’s current coverage in order to start from scratch with a one-size-fits-all Medicare for all system:

Democrats should focus on making improvements to Obamacare instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with “Medicare for All,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday.  “God bless” 2020 Democratic presidential candidates putting forth Medicare for All proposals, Pelosi said in an interview with “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer.  “But know what that entails.” … “I believe the path to ‘health care for all’ is a path following the lead of the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi told Cramer.  “Let’s use our energy to have health care for all Americans, and that involves over 150 million families that have it through the private sector.”

Voicing his own concerns over the elimination of Americans’ choice and control under a one-size-fits-all system, presidential hopeful Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) said on CNN this week: “Do you like what you have?  If you do, the federal government and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and others shouldn’t be coming into your home and saying you have to get on this other alternative government program.”  Meanwhile, former top Obama administration official Gene Sperling encouraged Democrats “to focus on your end goal, which is affordable health care …  Don’t get locked into my way or the highway on how to get there.”
The fact is, the majority of Americans are satisfied with the quality of their current health care – rating it ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ (80 percent) – and their level of coverage (69 percent).  In a story headlined, “Warren and Sanders say Americans don’t like their health insurance.  Polls don’t back that up,” CNN notes:

According to Gallup polling from late last year, 82% of Democrats said the quality of health care they received was either good or excellent.  A large majority, 71%, believed their health care coverage was either good or excellent.  Even when it comes to health care costs, 61% of Democrats said were satisfied with what they paid in health care.

national poll released this month by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that “[m]ost Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (55%) say they prefer a candidate who would build on the Affordable Care Act to achieve those goals.  Fewer (40%) prefer a candidate who would replace the ACA with a Medicare-for-all plan.”  And 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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