May 10, 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 U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) continues to face tough questions about the unaffordable costs and lower quality of care Americans would experience under Medicare for all, the editorial boards of high-profile newspapers are weighing in on the bad policy and bad politics of one-size-fits-all health care – and taking Sanders to task for campaign rhetoric that “deeply mischaracterizes” the realities of his proposal:

  • The editorial board of USA Today calls Medicare for all a “political pipe dream” with “no hope” while pointing to its “utter impracticality” and ticking through a laundry list of dire warnings issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week.
  • The Wall Street Journal’s editors explain that Americans “should know Mr. Sanders is promising miracles when what he’ll deliver is poorer care for everyone.”
  • And in a piece headlined “No Matter What Sanders Says, There’s No Medicare-For-All Without Tradeoffs,” the editors of The Washington Post write that “in reality, Medicare-for-all is not the only way to get to universal coverage; it is just the highly disruptive one Mr. Sanders prefers.  In doing so, he deeply mischaracterizes how difficult adopting it would be.  A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Wednesday underscores why.” 

And as he played defense on his costly, unworkable proposal, Senator Sanders lashed out at the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future’s efforts to build and improve upon what is working rather than eliminate the foundations of American health care and start from scratch with a one-size-fits-all system run by the government.  The Partnership’s Lauren Crawford Shaver responded to Sanders’s attacks in an op-ed, writing:

Americans, including many who had not previously paid close attention to Medicare for all, are beginning to ask questions – such as how much it would cost, how taxpayers would be forced to bear the burden of its massive price tag, how its drastic provider payment cuts could impact patients’ access to their doctors, increase wait times, reduce the quality of care they would receive and even threaten to force some hospitals to close their doors.  These are important questions.  Tellingly, they are also aspects of Medicare for all about which Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other supporters have been vague, preferring instead to rely on slogans, lofty rhetoric and divisive attacks on those who don’t fall in line … Thankfully, independent analysts are doing the hard work of cutting through the clutter and separating rhetoric from reality on Medicare for all.  The latest example is a report issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which brings the risks of a one-size-fits-all system into stark relief, warning that it “could cause substantial uncertainty for all participants,” and that its implementation “could be complicated, challenging, and potentially disruptive.”

Meanwhile, in yet another reminder that the unaffordable costs of Medicare for all would be passed on to middle class families through massive tax hikes, Bloomberg reports that Medicare for all “would require across-the-board tax increases that would hit middle-earners as well as the wealthy, public policy analysts say.”  They write:

Raising the more than $30 trillion needed to fund [Senator Bernie] Sanders’s health plan over a decade would require doubling all personal and corporate income taxes or tripling payroll taxes, which are split between employees and employers, said Marc Goldwein, a senior vice president at the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.  “There is a lot of money out there, but there isn’t $30 trillion sitting around from high earners,” he said. “It just doesn’t exist.”

In an op-ed published yesterday by The Washington Post, former U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) became the latest prominent Democrat to express serious concerns about the unaffordable costs and huge risks – both practical and political – of embracing a one-size-fits-all Medicare for all system, warning that “most Americans are satisfied with the health care they receive and do not want their coverage options taken away and replaced with a one-size-fits-all government program,” adding: “Championing a health-care policy that threatens to close rural hospitals and limit patients’ access to vital services is not a winning message.

And Rob Casalou, CEO of Trinity Health Michigan, warns in an opinion piece for The Detroit News that “Medicare for all — despite the seductive simplicity of its message — is simply unacceptable, and pursuing it any further does ourselves, our state and our health a disservice.”



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