March 22, 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 this week in the debate on America’s health care future:

  • A growing chorus of key voices in the Democratic party is sounding alarm bells on Medicare for all-style proposals – a fact neatly encapsulated in headlines like these:
    • “The Big Barrier to a Medicare For All Vote Isn’t Republicans, It’s Democrats”BuzzFeed (March 21)
    • “Democrats Openly Criticize ‘Medicare For All’”The Washington Examiner (March 20)
    • Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) “made the case against the [Medicare for all] bill both on the substance and the politics,” saying: “That legislation takes insurance away from 180 million people who get it from their employer, 80 percent of whom like it.  It takes it away from every single union that has collectively bargained for their health-care plan.  It takes it away from 20 million people that have Medicare Advantage who love Medicare Advantage.”  In an op-edfor The Atlantic, former Obama White House Chief of Staff and House Democratic campaign chief Rahm Emanuel warned Democrats about the risks of embracing Medicare for all-style proposals.  And the Examiner notes that in the wake of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s criticisms of Medicare for all, “Democrats who aren’t on board with the plan are becoming more vocal about why.  Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Hill that the former bill’s estimated price tag of $32 trillion in extra government spending over a decade was ‘a little scary.’  Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, also has drawn attention to the cost.”
  • Just days after a widely-reported study revealed that Medicare for all-style proposals “would compound financial stresses [hospitals] are already facing, potentially impacting access to care and provider quality,” a second studyfinds that America’s hospitals “could face financial peril under Medicare expansion scenarios” such as Medicare for all, Medicare-X, Medicare buy-in or public option, POLITICO reports.
    • The new study warns that Medicare for all-style proposals could force hospitals to limit the care they provide, drive significant “layoffs” and “potentially force the closure of essential hospitals.”  Because the “capacity to reduce/manage cost will vary markedly from system to system and hospital to hospital,” the report finds single-payer proposals “appear to have financial effects that exceed the capacity of hospital managements to reduce their expenses.”
  • And, as we mark the ninth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act this week, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future’s Lauren Crawford Shaver published an op-ed in The Hill urging lawmakers to “reflect on the progress we have made, and continue to protect and build upon what’s working, while coming together to fix what isn’t.”  She writes:

Today, more Americans are covered than at any time in U.S. history, an achievement accomplished through the strong partnership between the free market and public programs … In addition to the significant increase in the number of Americans who are covered, Americans are strongly supportive of the ACA’s patient protections …While there has been progress, there is still more that can and must be done to expand access to affordable coverage to every American.  Thankfully, the current system provides us with the tools needed to achieve this … rather than scrapping our entire health-care system, as some have proposed, for a one-size-fits-all government-run program that would cost trillions in higher taxes, eliminate patient choice and control, and throw Americans off their current plans despite the vast majority being satisfied.  Whether it’s called Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in or single payer, such proposals would dramatically reduce the amounts paid to doctors and hospitals, resulting in health care providers being forced to limit the care they provide. For patients this would mean fewer choices and options as they are forced away from their current coverage, plus longer wait times and a lower quality of care as doctors and hospitals struggle to provide care in the face of dramatic cuts to their resources.  Medicare for all would also come at a steep cost to American families, with two independent studies estimating the expense at $32 trillion over ten years — a price tag the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget found would increase federal spending by 60 percent and require the equivalent of tripling payroll taxes or more than doubling all other taxes. To state the obvious, Americans can’t afford that, and they don’t support it.


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