May 17, 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 the House Budget Committee gears up for a hearing next week on the consequences of a government-run health care system like Medicare for all, The Wall Street Journal reports that Congressional Democrats are largely steering clear of the costly, one-size-fits-all proposal and that “the House’s Democratic leadership has no plans to hold a vote on the measure.  Many moderate Democrats do not support Medicare for All, wary of its potential costs,” while the committee’s chairman, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) told The Washington Post:

“A lot of people, I think, co-sponsored [Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for all] bill for the same reason they co-sponsored H.R. 676; it was the metaphor for Medicare-for-all … Now, people have seen some of the details and said, ‘Okay, we need to look at this.’ There doesn’t seem to be much of a sense of urgency because it’s not going anywhere.”

And, appearing on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal,” Rep. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.) explained that her constituents want to keep their coverage, not be pushed into the one-size-fits-all government-run health care system known as “Medicare for all,” saying:

“…Out of my own experience and out of what my constituents tell me – they want to keep their private health insurance.  They do not necessarily want to go into a government program.  For those people who have very good private health insurance, they don’t want to go to a lesser program.  Medicare is not as good as many of the private insurance plans we currently have … But, more importantly, why should we spend money when people have good private health insurance?  We need to cover those who don’t have coverage now.”

Meanwhile, 2020 presidential candidates who have sponsored Medicare for all legislation are now struggling to explain what their proposed one-size-fits-all health care system would mean for Americans.  While the legislation they support specifically calls for the elimination of private coverage – a fact the bill’s author, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), reiterated again this week – Sanders’s fellow presidential hopeful Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) struggled to explain her position, providing an answer that NBC News said was “likely to confuse voters who want to know what happens to their health care if the single-payer bill becomes law.”

Referring to Senator Harris’s claim that Medicare for all “does not get rid of insurance,” The Washington Post wrote that Harris’s “language is slippery.  She could more forthrightly admit that the health plan she supports envisions virtually no role for the private insurancenow used by nearly 220 million Americans.”

As of 2017, according to the Census Bureau, 67 percent of Americans — 217 million people — received health insurance through a private plan, mostly through their employer … Sanders himself has been clear that he sees no role left for private insurance … Section 107 would make it illegal for any private health insurer to sell coverage that duplicated benefits under the law or for any employer to duplicate the benefits, but adds that nothing on the proposed law would prohibit the sale of health insurance for benefits not covered under the bill.  Okay, but the bill proposes to cover just about everything … Call us skeptical, but Section 107 looks like a loophole for single-payer supporters to claim that private insurance is not being eliminated, even as the main sponsor says he wants to put health insurance companies out of the business.

And another 2020 hopeful, Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), also “attempted to reconcile his co-sponsorship of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bill with his stance that the private insurance industry should not be eliminated — something called for by both the legislation and a number of the Democratic primary’s biggest names, including Sanders and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif,” appearing on ABC’s “This Week.”

Finally, not only would Medicare for all cost hard-working families trillions in tax increases, eliminate patient choice and control and diminish their access to and quality of care, a new report from The Washington Post reminds us of the devastating implications this legislation could have on our rural hospitals, which already face “doctor shortages and historically low operating margins” and “have suffered disproportionately from government cuts to Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates.”



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