If anyone doubts the significance of our discussion regarding how important health care discussion is in the voters’ minds. Look at this survey! Oh, those greedy angry politicians and the mid-term elections!! The question is what are our politicians interested in?
I had an interesting conversation with a strategist for the Democratic party and she agreed with me that even if the Republicans in the House and the Senate came up with a solution to health care and or immigration that fulfilled their wants and needs, they wouldn’t approve or vote in favor of any bills until after the mid-term election to which they expected to declare their majority position.
Jenny Dean reviewed a survey, which showed that of the 37 percent of voters nationwide who planned to vote for President Donald Trump in the 2020 election, more than a third of Republicans and 37 percent of Independents said in a survey conducted by the Texas Medical Center that they would change their mind if his policies led to an increase in the uninsured. When the majority of voters across the country head to the voting booth in November and again in 2020, the politics of health care will not be far from their thoughts.
That’s the finding of the fourth annual Texas Medical Center’s national consumer survey, released Wednesday, which gauges attitudes on health issues, ranging from support of President Donald Trump’s policies to whether foods laden with fat and sugar should cost more.
“The Nation’s Pulse,” the survey questioned 5,038 people across 50 states, including 1,018 people in Texas. Respondents were both Democrats and Republicans but also included those who identified as Independent. Nearly two-thirds, or 61 percent, said they would be likely to only vote for candidates who promise to make fixing health care a priority. Additionally, the majority of voters said it was important that candidates share their views on such hot-button issues as the expansion of Medicaid. Those views held both in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and in the 17 states, including Texas that did not.
Survey responses at a glance
Likelihood to only vote for a candidate who wants health care fixed:
Democrats: 68 percent
Republicans: 60 percent
Independent: 53 percent
Plan to vote for Donald Trump in 2020:
U.S (all parties).: 37 percent
Texas (all parties): 38 percent
2020 Trump voters who would change their mind if the uninsured rate rises:
Republicans: 35 percent
Independents: 37 percent
Democrats: 60 percent
Texans who support Medicaid expansion:
Texans who support Medicare for all:
Support lowering legal blood alcohol limit while driving to 0.0 percent:
U.S.: 46 percent
Texas: 48 percent
Think foods that lead to obesity should cost more:
U.S. 51 percent
Texas: 56 percent
Source: Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute
Across all political parties, 60 percent of Texans favored a Medicaid expansion, according to the survey. This comes despite years of steadfast opposition from state leaders. It also closely mirrors a similar survey in June by Houston-based Episcopal Health Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation that found 64 percent of Texans wanted a Medicaid expansion.
But perhaps most striking was that “Medicare for All” health coverage — once politically unthinkable in Texas —found surprising favorability with 55 percent in the state saying they would support it. That compares with 59 percent nationwide, the survey found.
“With health care so expensive and increasingly unaffordable, the respondents told us that it is important to try to fix it,” said Dr. Arthur “Tim” Garson, director of the Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute, which led the study.
While the bitter health care debate of a year ago has slipped mostly out of the headlines, it apparently has not slipped from people’s minds, political operatives from both parties said Tuesday.
Neither Glenn Smith, an Austin-based progressive consultant nor Jamie Bennett, vice president at Potomac Strategy Group, a right-leaning political consulting firm, were especially surprised when told of the survey results.
“I think (health care) is the most critical domestic issue that we face today,” said Smith, adding that worries about affordability and access are “ever-present” in people’s lives.
“Health care is a very important issue for our elected leaders to solve,” agreed Bennett in an email, “It makes up the majority of the federal budget and affects every American at some point in their lifetime. I think health care will continue to be a central issue in the mid-terms and 2020 presidential election — especially given the inaction from the federal level.”
Looking ahead to 2020, the survey zeroed in on Trump supporters. Of the 37 percent of voters nationwide who planned to vote for the president, more than a third of Republicans and 37 percent of Independents said they would change their mind if his policies led to an increase in the uninsured.
Such potential defection did not surprise Smith. “That is one of the things that could knock significant numbers from his base,” he said. Garson cautioned, though, the presidential race is still two years away. “You don’t know until Election Day what people will do,” he said,
There were differences, however, in how party affiliation affected priorities. While reducing costs was considered the highest priority across the board, Democrats listed universal coverage as next, while Republicans and Independents said affordability was the second highest priority.
In other issues, the survey found nearly half of Americans, including those in Texas, supported lowering the legal blood alcohol limit while driving to 0.0. It is currently .08 in Texas. Also, an overwhelming majority in all states wanted the age of buying tobacco products raised to 21, and more than half said that foods that lead to obesity should cost more.
The policymakers and politicians continue to point to the Canadian health care system as one that we should use as the model for our system here in the U.S.A. ’Canadians are one in a million — while waiting for medical treatment
Sally Pipes points out that Canada’s single-payer healthcare system forced over 1 million patients to wait for necessary medical treatments last year. That’s an all-time record.
Those long wait times were more than just a nuisance; they cost patients $1.9 billion in lost wages, according to a new report by the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think-tank.
Lengthy treatment delays are the norm in Canada and other single-payer nations, which ration care to keep costs down. Yet more and more Democratic leaders are pushing for a single-payer system — and more and more voters are clamoring for one.
Indeed, three in four Americans now support a national health plan — and a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds that health care is the most important issue for voters in the coming election.
The leading proponent of transitioning the United States to a single-payer system is Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s firebrand independent. If Sanders and his allies succeed, Americans will face the same delays and low-quality care as their neighbors to the north.
By his own admission, Sen. Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill is modeled on Canada’s healthcare system. On a fact-finding trip to Canada last fall, Sanders praised the country for “guaranteeing health care to all people,” noting that “there is so much to be learned” from the Canadian system.
The only thing Canadian patients are “guaranteed” is a spot on a waitlist. As the Fraser report notes, in 2017, more than 173,000 patients waited for an ophthalmology procedure. Another 91,000 lined up for some form of general surgery, while more than 40,000 waited for a urology procedure.
All told, nearly 3 percent of Canada’s population was waiting for some kind of medical care at the end of last year.
Those delays were excruciatingly long. After receiving a referral from a general practitioner, the typical patient waited more than 21 weeks to receive treatment from a specialist. That was the longest average waiting period on record — and more than double the median wait in 1993.
Rural patients faced even longer delays. For instance, the average Canadian in need of orthopedic surgery waited almost 24 weeks for treatment — but the typical patient in rural Nova Scotia waited nearly 39 weeks for the same procedure.
One Ontario woman, Judy Congdon, learned that she needed a hip replacement in 2016, according to the Toronto Sun. Doctors initially scheduled the procedure for September 2017 — almost a year later. The surgery never happened on schedule. The hospital ran over budget, forcing physicians to postpone the operation for another year.
In the United States, suffering for a year or more before receiving a joint replacement is unheard of. In Canada, it’s normal.
Canadians lose a lot of money waiting for their “free” socialized medicine. On average, patients forfeit over $1,800 in lost wages. And that’s only counting the working hours they miss due to pain and immobility.
The Fraser Institute researchers also calculated the value of all the waking hours that patients lost because they couldn’t fully function. The toll was staggering — almost $5,600 per patient, totaling $5.8 billion nationally. And those calculations ignore the value of uncompensated care provided by family members, who often take time off work or quit their jobs to help ill loved ones.
Canada isn’t an anomaly. Every nation that offers government-funded, universal coverage features long wait times. When the government makes health care “free,” consumers’ demand for medical services surges. Patients have no incentive to limit their doctor visits or choose more cost-efficient providers.
To prevent expenses from ballooning, the government sets strict budget caps that only enable hospitals to hire a limited number of staff and purchase a meager amount of equipment. Demand inevitably outstrips supply. Shortages result.
Just look at the United Kingdom’s government enterprise, the National Health Service, which turns 70 this July. Today, British hospitals are so overcrowded that doctors regularly treat patients in hallways. The agency recently canceled tens of thousands of surgeries, including urgent cancer procedures, because of severe resource shortages. And this winter, nearly 17,000 patients waited in the backs of their ambulances — many for an hour or more — before hospital staff could clear space for them in the emergency room.
Most Americans would look at these conditions in horror. Yet Sen. Sanders and his fellow travelers continue to treat the healthcare systems in Canada and the UK as paragons to which America should aspire.
Sen. Sanders’s “Medicare for All” proposal would effectively ban private insurance and force all Americans into a single, government-funded healthcare plan. According to Sen. Sanders, this new insurance scheme would cover everything from regular check-ups to prescription drugs and specialty care, no referral needed — all at no charge to patients.
Americans shouldn’t fall for these rosy promises. As Canadians know all too well, when the government foots the bill for health care, patients are the ones who pay the biggest price.
Sanders was asked to respond to comments Schultz made about the plan in another interview.
Schultz recently announced that he would be leaving Starbucks and said he was considering “public service.” He said on CNBC he was concerned about the way “so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders said Medicare-for-all is a “cost-effective” program.
“And I ask myself, how are we going to pay for all these things? In terms of things like single-payer or people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job, I don’t think that’s realistic,” he said.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Sanders about the possibility of Schultz running as “the Left’s Trump” who may go up against the current president in 2020.
Sanders said he didn’t know Schultz but his comment was “dead wrong.”
“You have a guy who thinks that the United States apparently should remain the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people,” Sanders said. “The truth of the matter is that I think study after study has indicated that Medicare for All is a much more cost-effective approach toward health care than our current, dysfunctional health care system, which is far and away the most expensive system per capita than any system on Earth.”
But there was progress made as evidenced in that the Senate finally Passes Historic Health Spending Bill and the Package includes funding for cancer, opioids, and maternal mortality
Shannon Firth a Washington Correspondent, for the MedPage, wrote that a spending bill that boosts funding for medical research while also taking aim at the opioid epidemic and maternal mortality passed the Senate on Thursday in a vote of 85-7.
The $857-billion “minibus” package bundled funding for Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as for the Defense, Labor, and Education departments.
Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and James Risch (R-Idaho) voted against the bill.
Attention now turns to the House of Representatives, which has not yet acted on a bill to fund HHS. Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to enact a funding package to avoid a shutdown of the affected departments.
What’s in It?
The legislation provides $2 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including $425 million for Alzheimer’s research and $190 million for cancer research. It also maintains current levels of CDC spending for cancer screening and early detection programs, as well as for the agency’s Office of Smoking and Health.
Also woven into the package: $3.7 billion for behavioral and mental health programs targeting opioid addiction — an increase of $145 million over the FY2018 budget — including $1.5 billion in State Opioid Response Grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; $200 million to increase prevention and treatment services in Community Health Centers; and $120 million to address the epidemic’s impact in rural areas through support for rural health centers. The bill also dedicates $50 million to programs aimed at tackling maternal mortality.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) lauded the investment in ending maternal mortality in a press statement.
“It is completely inexcusable that mothers are more likely to die in childbirth in our country than any other country in the developed world, and long past time we treated this issue like the crisis it is,” she said.
New Push for Research
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), speaking on the Senate floor Thursday, blasted the short shrift given to NIH from 2003 to 2015.
Should this bill become law, the agency will see a nearly 30% increase in its reserves — from $30 billion to $39 billion, he added.
Already, heightened funding since 2015 has driven efforts to develop new vaccines, rebuild a human heart using a patient’s own cells, and identify new nonaddictive painkillers — “the holy grail of dealing with the opioid crisis” — said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, during a committee hearing on Thursday.
In addition, NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, Ph.D., said at the hearing that the new monies will let the agency award 1,100 new grants to first-time investigators through the Next Generation Researchers Initiative — the largest number to date.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) stressed the importance of NIH funding to curb the costs of health care, especially of Alzheimer’s disease.
“If we do not find the cure for Alzheimer’s by the time we reach the year 2050, the budget at Medicare and Medicaid for taking care of Alzheimer’s patients will be equal to the defense budget of our country,” he said.
“Obviously, that is non-sustainable,” Markey noted.
U.S. taxpayers currently spend $277 billion on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that figure is projected to grow to $1.1 trillion, Blunt noted.
Also Wrapped In…
The minibus package also included the following:
- $1 million for HHS to develop regulations stipulating that drug companies include the price of the drug in any direct-to-consumer advertisements — an idea supported by HHS Secretary Alex Azar
- Full funding for the Childhood Cancer STAR Act which involves collecting medical specimens and other data from children with the hardest to treat cancers, and supports research on the challenges pediatric cancer survivors encounter within “minority or medically underserved populations”
- The requirement that the HHS Secretary provide an update on rulemaking related to information-blocking, as mandated in the 21st Century Cures Act
- Funds “Trevor’s Law,” which seeks to enhance collaboration among federal, state, and local agencies and the public in investigating possible cancer clusters
- Mandates that CDC report on the Coal Workers Health Surveillance Program, which targets black lung disease among coal miners
An amendment from Paul aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood failed in a vote of 45-48.
Docs, Wonks Weigh In
Stakeholders in medicine applauded the Senate’s work.
“[T]his bill will enable the nation’s medical schools and teaching hospitals, which perform over half of NIH-funded extramural research, to continue to expand our knowledge, discover new cures and treatments, and deliver on the promise of hope for patients nationwide,” said Darrell Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, in a press statement.
These new NIH monies will also help support “well-paying jobs across the country, strengthen the economy … and make America more competitive in science and technology,” Kirch said; he urged the House to pass a similar measure as quickly as possible.
The American Heart Association also applauded the Senate’s bipartisan achievement.
“Sustained funding for the NIH is critical to ensuring the nation’s standing as a global leader in research. Even more importantly, it opens an abundance of possibilities in pioneering research that could help us conquer cardiovascular disease, the no. 1 killer in America and around the world,” said Ivor Benjamin, MD, president of the AHA.
Members of the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, however, were disappointed.
“The bill fails to make any program reforms or policy recommendations to address Obamacare. Congress still needs to provide relief to the millions suffering under Obamacare’s reduced choices and higher costs,” said a Heritage report issued Wednesday.
The departments to be funded by the minibus package account for more than 60% of discretionary federal spending for 2019, so there was some positive movement on the health care system despite our political dysfunction. Where do we go next?