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:

At a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means, several members emphasized the negative impacts of a one-size-fits-all government-run system and explained why we should focus instead on building and improving upon what works in American health care.  The committee’s chairman, Rep. Richie Neal (D-Mass.), “opened the historic hearing Wednesday by praising the Affordable Care Act — and also raised concerns about sweeping overhaul proposals such as ‘Medicare for All,’” CNN reports, while Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) said “I’m not sure that Medicare for all is the right answer.  I have a lot of folks in my district – 50% of the folks in my district have employer based health care coverage, and they want to keep that.”

Leading up to the hearing, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future issued a memo reminding lawmakers that the push for Medicare for all is stalled because Americans don’t want to pay more to wait longer for worse care, and that so-called “moderate” fallback proposals – new government insurance systems like “buy-in” or “public option” – would lead to the same bad results.  The Partnership also released a statement, welcoming “a frank and open discussion on how best to expand access to the affordable, quality health care every American deserves,” and encouraging lawmakers to steer clear of government insurance systems:

“Unfortunately, some are promoting costly, destructive plans that would undermine the foundations of American health care and harm taxpayers, consumers and patients.  This includes proposed government insurance programs, often called ‘buy-in’ or ‘public option’ schemes, which are intended to be a slippery slope to one-size-fits-all Medicare for all – a fact even their proponents acknowledge.  While some have labeled these proposals as ‘moderate,’ their results would be anything but, as Americans would ultimately lose the choice and control they value so highly, and be forced to pay more to wait longer for worse care[O]ur leaders already have powerful tools available to them to bring costs under control and extend coverage to millions more … By taking constructive, common-sense steps such as these, the free market and public programs can continue working together to make health care better for every American.”

One of the many concerns expressed during the hearing was the harm a government run, one-size-fits-all system would cause to rural hospitals, with Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) saying: “… [O]bviously one of the concerns I have, especially when it comes to a single-payer system, is the effect that it would have on rural hospitals.  Many facilities in my district and who I’ve spoken to, they run on thin margins and could likely face considerable financial difficulty if payments were reduced through a single payer.”  This concern should come as no surprise, as a recent study found that such a system would “not only contribute to massive budget cuts to hospitals nationwide but would also jeopardize patients’ access to care … [and] would destabilize insurance markets and compound hospital expenses.”

And, as some Democratic lawmakers continue to push for such plans that would scrap Americans’ current coverage – including employer-provided coverage, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid and Medicare – new data reveals that the seniors they represent “are choosing private Medicare Advantage plans more so than the national average,” as reported by Forbes:

Seniors in progressive U.S. states are choosing private Medicare Advantage plans more so than the national average even as the politicians who want to represent them talk about getting rid of the insurer’s role in health coverage.  New data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows more than 40% of new Medicare beneficiaries in Oregon and Minnesota chose Medicare Advantage plans in 2016. And more than 36% of new Medicare beneficiaries in New York and California chose Medicare Advantage plans in 2016.  The move toward privatized Medicare plans in Democratic-leaning states like these comes as many candidates for the party’s nomination for President are pushing a single payer version of “Medicare for All” that would bring an end to the private insurer’s role. 

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