January 3, 2020 | 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 presidential candidates try to paint one-size-fits-all new government health insurance systems – like Medicare buy-in and the public option – as so-called “moderate” alternatives to Medicare for All, Eric Levitz at New York Magazine notes that in reality these new systems “would not allow all Americans to ‘keep their private insurance if they prefer it’” and “would guarantee massive disruptions to private coverage.”

… To extend quality coverage to the millions of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured, you either need to force providers to accept drastically lower payment rates … or increase federal spending on health care … The estimated price tag on [Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT)] plan is (infamously) $32.6 trillion a decade … A plan that sought to provide universal, comprehensive health coverage – without disrupting private insurers or imposing big pay cuts on hospitals and doctors – would be vastly more expensive … Biden’s [public option] will not allow most Americans to “keep their private insurance,” at least, not for long … And to make the public option fiscally sustainable … [public option supporters]would need to propose tax increases nearly as large as those put forward by Sanders and Warren.

… All of which is to say, when Medicare for All Who Want It stops being a campaign pitch, and becomes a bill before Congress, it will face almost all of the same political obstacles as single-payer … [The public option] will require Congress to vote to (effectively) abolish the private insurance industry as we’ve known it, slash doctors’ salaries and hospitals profits, enact hefty tax increases, and disrupt the existing insurance coverage of millions of Americans.

As 2020 begins, the debate over America’s health care future is markedly different than it was at the start of 2019.  Medicare for All – which began last year as a “litmus test” for presidential hopefuls – has become increasingly unpopular as voters learn of the unaffordable tax increases, longer wait times and lower quality of care that would result.

  • In April, 14 Senators, including four running for president, had signed onto Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) Medicare for All bill.  “But what seemed like a bold stroke for the senators at the time would come back to haunt many of them … the health care debate this year has put the left on the defensive … The casualty list is extensive,” POLITICO reports.  Today, supporters of Medicare for All are “reeling after seeing the Democratic health care debate shift dramatically in their direction the past few years,” POLITICO adds.
  • Poll after poll helps explain why.  As voters learn about the unaffordable costs and other negative consequences American families would face under proposed new government-controlled health insurance systems, support drops.  The same is true of so-called “moderate” alternatives to Medicare for All – namely Medicare buy-in and the public option– which would cause the same negative consequences over time as Medicare for All would produce overnight.  Recent national polling by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that support for the public option is declining.

The latest example of this?  In a front-page story headlined “Elizabeth Warren Isn’t Talking Much About ‘Medicare for All’ Anymore,” The New York Times reported yesterday that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who through much of 2019 campaigned on her support for Medicare for All, now “is barely speaking of the proposal” on the presidential trail, going so far as “to keep her own health care plan at arm’s length at a time when she has been facing significant scrutiny” regarding its costs and consequences, while “her campaign is proactively seeking to calm fears about her health care proposal.”



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