October 11, 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 concern grows over the unaffordable costs associated with Medicare for all, some proponents of the new government-controlled health insurance system “are scrambling to ease concerns that it would create higher costs for many middle-class Americans,” The Washington Post reports:

Although [Medicare for all’s supporters] have frequently stressed that the middle class would see overall costs go down, a wide range of experts … say it is impossible to make those guarantees based on the plans that the candidates have outlined so far.  “Obviously, all of the 180 million people who have private insurance are not going to pay less.  It’s impossible to have an ‘everybody wins’ scenario here,” said Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the health policy department at Emory University.  “The plan is by design incredibly disruptive.  As a result, you create enormous winners and losers.”  “There’s no question it hits the middle class,” he added.  John Holahan, a health policy expert at the nonpartisan Urban Institute agreed: “Even though high-income people are going to pay a lot more, this has to hit the middle class.” 

And while some proponents of the one-size-fits-all system insist that their middle class tax hikes would be offset by savings, “economists say that most taxpayers would pay more in taxes than they would save from having the federal government absorb the cost of health-care premiums,” The Post continues:

“Most of the proposals to move to Medicare-for-all would involve substantial tax increases that would affect most people,”said Katherine Baicker, an economist at the University of Chicago who specializes in health policy. “These are going to be big tax increases.  The tax brackets may have to shift.  You may have to do more than just dialing up the top tax bracket in a realistic accounting.”  “I think it seems likely under most proposals taxes would have to go up substantially unless you dramatically cut the health care you’re getting,” she added.  “And I don’t think most proposals envision substantially cutting back on care.  And most envision expanding care which meansyou’re spending more unless you dramatically cut the price per service.” 

The Partnership’s Lauren Crawford Shaver joined radio host Michael Patrick Shiels on “Michigan’s Big Show” to discuss the unaffordable costs and risks associated with these new government-controlled health insurance system – including Medicare for all, Medicare buy-in or the public option:

… [R]ight now, we have about 90 percent of Americans in this country who have coverage … We cannot throw away what we have right now.  And so, in Medicare for all-style proposals, which we see in the public option and buy-in, those fundamentally alter and change our health care system in a way where the government’s going to be in the middle, making the decision of what care’s covered and not … And throwing out that under Medicare for all you’ll get free care forever is really a misnomer.  You will have to pay more in taxes.  That has been said by both Democratic and Republican organizations.  It’s not free … There are real costs to it.  Financial costs and also fundamental changes to the system. 

These proposals’ unaffordable costs and risks to patients may explain why more Democrats are speaking out against a new one-size-fits-all government-controlled system.  Earlier this week, President Obama’s former deputy chief of staff for policy Nancy-Ann DeParle said “candidates and experts should instead be looking at ways to build upon the existing system,” Connecticut Public Radio reports.  Speaking at Yale University, DeParle said, “I would not waste time trying to invent the wheel … I would try to improve the structure that’s already there.”  Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) criticized members of his party for not doing more to protect the progress made under the Affordable Care Act:

“I’m going to be critical of Democrats,” he said …  “It’s interesting to have a debate about some new idea.  Some, some people want to talk about Medicare for All all day long.  It’s a mistake to spend our time debating some future idea when the whole thing is at risk…”



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