Opinion: Medicare for all, quality care for none

by | Aug 2, 2019 | Opinion

Opinion and Commentary pieces are featured in each week’s edition. (Courtesy photo)

Medicare for All has emerged as a defining issue in the race for the White House. Several contenders for the Democratic nomination for president support expanding Medicare to cover all Americans.

But the idea may not play well with the public. Medicare for All would take away existing health insurance coverage from tens of millions of Americans — and deprive them of any say over their health care. In exchange for sacrificing control of their health care, Americans would pay trillions of dollars in new taxes. 

Consider Sen. Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All Act, which would enroll all Americans in a new government-run health plan. 

No one would have a choice. The bill would outlaw private insurance coverage. More than 150 million people with employer-sponsored insurance plans, 20 million people who purchase coverage on the individual market, and 20 million people with privately administered Medicare Advantage plans would find themselves in a one-size-fits-all government plan.

Experts peg the cost of Medicare for All at roughly $32 trillion over its first decade. Even doubling what the federal government takes in corporate and individual income tax would be insufficient to cover that tab. 

The massive tax hikes needed to come up with that cash are deeply unpopular. Six in ten Americans oppose Medicare for All once they learn it’ll require tax increases.

And that initial $32 trillion estimate may be low. The bill envisions paying healthcare providers at Medicare’s existing rates, which are 40 percent lower, on average, than those for private insurance. 

Doctors and hospitals can’t simply absorb those kinds of pay cuts. Many healthcare facilities, especially those in rural areas, will close their doors. Physicians may retire early, cut the number of hours they work, or leave medicine altogether. 

The result will be a healthcare system where everyone has coverage — but no access to care.

That’s exactly how things work at the government-run Veterans Health Administration. 

According to a 2017 audit of 12 VA facilities in North Carolina and Virginia conducted by the agency’s inspector general, one-third of veterans had to wait more than 30 days for a primary care appointment. The average wait for this group was 51 days. Thirty-nine percent of those waiting for an appointment for specialty care at the 12 hospitals and clinics idled for more than 30 days. The average wait for this group was 60 days.

Millions of Americans who have private health insurance have demonstrated they’re not interested in losing coverage for VA-style health care. Just look at the results of the recent midterm elections.

Seventy percent of Democrats that won Republican-held House seats — 21 out of 30 — do not support Medicare for All. Six of the seven Democrats who took state governorships from Republicans last fall also do not support the idea.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of Democrats who lost House seats to Republicans supported Medicare for All.

Ensuring everyone has access to health insurance is a laudable goal. But we can achieve it by building on what works in our current system and fixing what doesn’t. Seventy percent of those with employer-based plans are happy with their coverage. The nine-year-old Affordable Care Act has been gaining public support. A recent poll found 61 percent of Americans want the law to be retained or improved.

Medicare for All is not the only way to ensure universal access to health insurance. In fact, it’s the most expensive, most complicated, and most disruptive.

This piece originally ran in Detroit News. By Janet Trautwein, CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters (nahu.org).

For more opinion pieces like this subscribe in print or online.

0 Comments

Related News

Why we need a community forum

Why we need a community forum

I am not sure what I expected our country to look like in 2021, but I certainly did not expect it to be so fractured and so bogged down in hate. My oldest son was a year old on September 11, 2001. The wave of patriotism following that day gave me hope for the America...

read more
Rural America needs sound, predictable tax policy

Rural America needs sound, predictable tax policy

They say that nothing is certain in life ex­cept death and taxes. While those two certainties are undeniable, we need to make sure that family-owned busi­nesses, including farms and ranches, aren’t taxed to death. Texas boasts more than 248,000 farming and ranch­ing...

read more
Supporting local journalism supports this community

Supporting local journalism supports this community

The Local Journalism Sustainability Act (LJSA) was recently introduced in the House and has now been introduced in the Senate – and will benefit every member of this community! Unlike many issues in Wash­ington, this legislation has bi­partisan support and is focused...

read more
We’re global now

We’re global now

No matter how hard we try, we really can’t avoid one another. We live in a world where what takes place some­where else on the globe has a very good chance of affecting us, along with many others. The pandemic, of course, is a useful – if sobering – ex­ample. A virus...

read more
Texans’ right to know should be front and center

Texans’ right to know should be front and center

With state lawmak­ers immersed in the COVID-19 pandemic response and Texas’ electricity failures, the public’s access to information must be at the forefront of the Legis­lature’s actions. Information allows citizens to watch over their government, to speak out and to...

read more
Legislators can help prevent trafficking

Legislators can help prevent trafficking

The COVID-19 pan­demic has produced too many tragedies to tally, but here is one that does not get talked about enough: It has worsened conditions that leave children and youth especially vulnerable to com­mercial sexual exploitation, a human trafficking crime. Human...

read more
Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas leaders are rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to encourage the public to follow suit. “I will never ask any Texan to do something that I’m not willing to do myself,” Abbott said before getting vaccinated at a...

read more