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Medicare for All Gaining Momentum as 2020 Election Approaches

Federal health care policy, including Medicare for All,  continues to be debated in Congress.
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Policy Perspectives

As the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on and we approach the November elections, federal health care policy continues to garner significant attention. Specifically, Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in and the public option have gained some momentum within the Democratic party.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives held multiple hearings on these proposals in 2019, including hearings in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Ways and Means Committee, which have jurisdiction over health care policy.

In addition to the hearings, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) have both introduced Medicare for All legislation this Congress. While presidential candidate Joe Biden has continued to advocate for making changes within the framework of the Affordable Care Act on the campaign trail, a Democratic sweep in the November elections could bring immense pressure from the Democratic base to consider these policies in 2021 and beyond.

The Big “I" has been a consistent supporter of the employer-sponsored health care system and was successful in fighting to repeal the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) “Cadillac Tax," an insidious tax that would have caused significant harm to the employer-sponsored marketplace if it had not been repealed at the end of 2019 before it was set to be implemented.

Employer-sponsored health insurance is the most common way Americans receive their health insurance and the Big “I" believes we must do everything we can to make sure that the more than 180 million Americans who rely on this system can keep their current insurance.

As the “Cadillac Tax" is now in the rear-view mirror, the Big “I" has turned its attention to this new government-run threat to the employer-sponsored system. As part of its fight against attempts to scrap the employer-sponsored system in favor of a government-run system, the Big “I" joined the Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PAHCF).

In addition to agents and brokers, this important coalition includes the nation's leading doctors, nurses, clinicians, community hospitals, health insurance providers and pharmaceutical companies, who are all committed to working together to ensure every American has access to the affordable, high-quality coverage they deserve.

Like the Big “I," the PAHCF supports building on the strength of the employer-provided health care system and preserving Medicare, Medicaid, and other proven solutions that hundreds of millions of Americans depend on. The organization's mission is to “work together to lower costs, protect patient choice, expand access, improve quality and foster innovation."

The PAHCF strongly believes that a new government-run health insurance system, such as Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in or the public option, will not allow us to achieve those goals. These new proposals would ultimately eliminate patient choice and control over their coverage and force Americans off their current plan and into a single, government-controlled health insurance system.

The Congressional Budget Office notes that under a government-run system, “patients might face increased wait times and reduced access to care," and such a system “could also reduce the quality of care," while “[t]he number of hospitals and other health care facilities might also decline as a result of closures, and there might be less investment in new and existing facilities." 

In addition to hurting consumers, this would have a drastic effect on the health care marketplace and completely change the role agents and brokers play in ensuring consumers get the best health care coverage for their individual needs.

Outside of the insurance marketplace, government-run healthcare would also have a broad effect on the nation's economy. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), American families would have to see significant income tax increases to fund Medicare for All, which they believe would cost $32 trillion over a decade.

Interestingly, the CRFB also notes that even a low-end estimate of $30 trillion over a decade “would mean increasing federal spending by about 60 percent (excluding interest)" and “require the equivalent of tripling payroll taxes or more than doubling all other taxes."

The PAHCF is focused on taking this policy analysis and increasing public education and awareness on the dangers of government-run health care through TV advertisements and digital engagement. As the November election draws closer, the Big “I" looks forward to continuing our work with the PAHCF to build on and improve what is working in our current employer-based health care system while continuing to oppose a one-size-fits-all, new government health insurance system.

Wyatt Stewart is Big “I" senior director of federal government affairs.

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Thursday, August 13, 2020
On the Hill