I was away on vacation and arrived home from a long flight and long shuttle ride through the beautiful mountains of Colorado, but the delay allowed me to view an article updating the cost of the Medicare for All plan, with which I will end this post. Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivarof the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration’s Medicare chief on Wednesday slammed Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for a national health plan, saying “Medicare for All” would undermine care for seniors and become “Medicare for None.”
The broadside from Medicare and Medicaid administrator Seema Verma came in a San Francisco speech that coincides with a focus on health care in contentious midterm congressional elections. Sanders, a Vermont independent, fired back at Trump’s Medicare chief in a statement that chastised her for trying to “throw” millions of people off their health insurance during the administration’s failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Verma’s made her comments toward the end of a lengthy speech before the Commonwealth Club of California, during which she delved into arcane details of Medicare payment policies.
Denouncing what she called the “drumbeat” for “government-run socialized health care,” Verma said “Medicare for All” would “only serve to hurt and divert focus from seniors.” “You are giving the government complete control over decisions pertaining to your care, or whether you receive care at all,” she added.
“In essence, Medicare for All would become Medicare for None,” she said. Verma also said she disapproved of efforts in California to set up a state-run health care system, which would require her agency’s blessing.
In his response, Sanders said, “Medicare is, by far, the most cost-effective, efficient and popular health care program in America. He added: “Medicare has worked extremely well for our nation’s seniors and will work equally well for all Americans.”
The Sanders proposal would add benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, coverage for eyeglasses, most dental care, and hearing aids. It would also eliminate deductibles and copayments that Medicare and private insurance plans currently require.
Independent analyses of the Sanders plan have focused on the enormous tax increases that would be needed to finance it, not on concern about any potential harm to seniors currently enrolled in Medicare. I will review another cost estimation at the end of this post.
But so-called “Mediscare” tactics have been an effective political tool for both parties in recent years, dating back to Republican Sarah Palin’s widely debunked “death panels” to an opposition to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Democrats returned the favor after Republicans won control of the House in 2010 and tried to promote a Medicare privatization plan.
Democrats clearly believe supporting “Medicare for All” will give them an edge in this year’s midterm elections. More than 60 House Democrats recently launched a “Medicare for All” caucus, trying to tap activists’ fervor for universal health care that helped propel Sanders’ unexpectedly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. Just a few years ago, Sanders could not find co-sponsors for his legislation.
A survey earlier this year by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post found that 51 percent of Americans would support a national health plan, while 43 percent opposed it. Nearly 3 out of 4 Democrats backed the idea, as did 54 percent of independents. But only 16 percent of Republicans supported the Sanders approach.
Early in his career as a political figure, President Donald Trump spoke approvingly of Canada’s single-payer health care system, roughly analogous to Sanders’ approach. But by the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump had long abandoned that view. Bernie Sanders Medicare-for-all plan is all wrong for America It would be senseless to replace employer-based coverage with an expensive one-size-fits-all system that couldn’t handle treatments of the future.
Sanders unveils ‘Medicare For All’ bill
Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing legislation that would let Americans get health coverage simply by showing a new government-issued card. And they’d no longer owe out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles. (Sept. 13)
My 93-year-old father recently came home from the hospital proudly harboring a life-saving $50,000 aortic valve paid for by Medicare, though he rode home in a wheelchair that Medicare didn’t pay for. This gap in services is growing, as Medicare struggles to cover emerging technologies that are not one-size-fits-all while at the same time continuing to provide basic care. If Medicare is converted to single-payer or Medicare for all, as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont proposes, tens of millions more patients will be added to an already faltering system, and the gap between the promise of care and actual care delivered will widen.
Single-payer is the ultimate one-size-fits-all health care promise. Consider Canada, our single-payer neighbor to the north. One of my patients was visiting Toronto several years ago when he developed worsening angina requiring a cardiac stent. He was placed on a several-week waiting line before giving up and returning home for the procedure. The waiting-your-turn problem has only gotten worse since then. In 2016, the Fraser Institute found a median 20-week wait in Canada between a generalist’s referral and the time the patient actually received a definitive test or treatment/procedure from a specialist.
Americans already face a wasteful health care system with inadequate access to care. The Commonwealth Fund ranked us last among 11 wealthy nations this summer. But unlike Canada, we will never tolerate such long waiting lines, which is one of the reasons single-payer will never work here.
Despite growing problems in access and cost, most Americans don’t want change to jeopardize what works. A 2016 Gallup Poll revealed that 65% of Americans are happy with the way the healthcare system works for them. The backbone of our system is employer-based health insurance. Some 170 million Americans rely on coverage at their job, and employers receive an incentive to offer it in the form of a tax deduction.
More than 55 million Americans are covered by Medicare at a cost to the taxpayer of around $650 billion a year. Medicaid covers more than 70 million, at a cost of $532 billion.
Medicare-for-all would be far more expensive, especially given the rising cost of healthcare technologies. Last year the Urban Institute estimated that the Sanders plan would cost a whopping $32 trillion between 2017 and 2026, a completely unworkable number.
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Both Medicare and Medicaid are already struggling to find doctors who still want to work with them. About 30% of doctors wouldn’t see new Medicaid patients, close to the same as the share of primary care doctors over the age of 55 who won’t see new Medicare patients. This inherent doctor shortage will only worsen if government-run health insurance is expanded.
Finally, the health insurance lobby, quite powerful in Congress, will never allow single-payer to pass, as it would significantly erode its client base. Major health insurers spend millions of dollars lobbying each year to ensure their survival. They were crucial players in the construction of the highly regulated policies of Obamacare, which provide millions of more clients paying high premiums. Single-payer represents a big threat, and insurers are far too entrenched in Congress to lose the battle.
Single-payer isn’t the answer to providing health care in an exciting future where cancer and other treatments are genetic-based and personalized. For instance, CAR-T involves removing a patient’s immune cells and genetically engineering and reinserting them to fight cancer. Single-payer will never be able to justify paying for a $500,000 technology on a patient-by-patient basis.
Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb told me recently that the insurance model isn’t necessarily prepared to cover the latest treatments where “a one-time administration of a drug could potentially cure a disease.” He added, “I worry about access to therapies, particularly effective new therapies so it would be concerning if we had really impressive new treatments and patients couldn’t get access to them because the models weren’t right or patients were uninsured or underinsured for the medicines that they use.”
Bernie Sanders’ bloated Medicare-for-all insurance may be extensive, but it is not designed for the personalized cures of the near future. It is also definitely not the kind of national catastrophic national health insurance that Theodore Roosevelt had in mind during his 1912 “Bull Moose” presidential campaign or Richard Nixon’s comprehensive coverage plan that built on the existing employer-based system (proposed in 1974 but soon eclipsed by Watergate).
It makes a lot of sense for all patients and hospitals to be covered in the event of a sudden health catastrophe so that neither they nor the hospital that saves them goes bankrupt. But it makes little sense for single-payer to threaten an employer-based market that’s already working.
And now the newest Democrat contender joins Bernie Sanders in touting Medicare for All. In Thursday’s episode of “The Daily Show,” host Trevor Noah grilled Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ― the democratic socialist candidate who recently toppled Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District ― on what she calls her “idealist” views.
While discussing major points of political contention like health care and education, Noah asked the 28-year-old Latina to explain democratic socialism and what that label means to her. “I don’t knock on a person’s door and is like, ‘Hey! Let me tell you about socialism!’ Like, that’s not how I campaign,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I also think that I don’t knock on a person’s door and say, ‘Hey, let me tell you about being a Democrat.’”
“I don’t say that. I speak to people’s needs,” she went on. “And, you know, if Fox News and if media want to continue using this word, they’re gonna use the word. I think by me saying, ‘Oh, no, I’m not this, that and the other,’ it just becomes a distraction.”
Ocasio-Cortez told Noah that democratic socialists want to talk about “wages and education” as well as “saving our planet.”
“We’re here to talk about people paying their fair share, and we’re here to talk about saving the country, frankly,” she said.
Noah then pivoted, making the argument that while many would agree with the ideas she has in mind, it’s not clear how she plans to fund the causes she’s aiming to overhaul.
“Those ideas, I think most people would agree on, especially if they don’t know the label that they are attached to, you know?” Noah said. “But then, the pragmatic side of it comes in, as you said. How do you pay for these?”
“You know, you always see people coming in with economic arguments, and they say, look, these numbers don’t really add up,” he continued. “You know, in order to get health care for everybody, this is what it would cost. That’s going to be troubling. Even if you reverse the Republican tax deal, that’s only going to make up 5 percent of what we need to pay for Medicare for all. How do you pay for education for all ― how do you pay for all of these ideas?”
Ocasio-Cortez called that an “excellent, excellent question.” She told Noah she recently sat down with a “Nobel Prize economist” to talk policy ― “I can’t believe I can say that, it’s really weird” ― and noted that the extremely wealthy, like Warren Buffett, could be paying a 15 percent tax rate. With that and a corporate tax rate of 28 percent, plus some closed loopholes, she said, there would be “$2 trillion in 10 years” to put toward transitioning the U.S. to a fully renewable-energy economy. “One of the wide estimates is that it’s going to take $3 to $4 trillion” to do that, she said.
“A lot of what we need to do is reprioritize what we want to accomplish as a nation,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Really, what this is about is saying, health care is important enough for us to put first. Education is important enough for us to put first. And that is a decision that requires political and moral courage, from both parts of the aisle. Period.” This lady and I use this term carefully is a true idiot, but one can see how she might get a long list of followers. And look what is happening in the state of Maryland. The question was what would we get if we moved to ‘Medicare for all’? Pete Marovich for The Post recently wrote an article for The Post Reporting that “Jealous, Hogan clash on health care” exposed the missing link in our state (and national) debate on health care: It is about cost, not care. It is about quantity, not quality. “Single-payer” is by its nature-socialized health care. Okay. But I know socialized medicine, as a common soldier in the Army and as a U.S. diplomat who used a “VIP” clinic in a socialist country. Socialized medicine? No, thank you. Would socialized medicine be different here? Is it worth taking into consideration when debating the pros and cons of a “single-payer” health system what you would get with government’s trickle-down health care? “Medicare for all” is wishful thinking. It would be “Medicaid for all.”
The article mentioned that a University of Massachusetts at Amherst study concluded that California’s single-payer proposal “could provide decent health care for all California residents while still reducing net overall costs. ” What does “decent” mean? Does England have decent health care? It certainly is not enviable. Does Canada contribute significantly to the discovery of new advances in medicine and lifesaving drugs? Or does its enviable health-care system depend upon American contributions in the field of medicine? Who would determine the value of health care in terms of it being “adequate” or “decent”? Why the government would make this judgment. Taking in cost savings, of course. By the way, how’s the Trump administration doing on health care? Cost, not care. Quantity, not quality.
And back to the latest cost estimation of Medicare for All. Brooke Singman reporting for Fox News wrote recently that The “Medicare for All” plan, which we all know was and still is being pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders and endorsed by a host of Democratic congressional and presidential hopefuls would increase government health care spending by $32.6 trillion over 10 years, according to a new study. So I was off by a few Trillion $$. What’s a few trillion between “friends” or taxpayers??
The Vermont senator has avoided conducting his own cost analysis, and those supporting the plan have at times struggled to explain how they could pay for it. The study, released Monday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, showed the plan would require historic tax increases. The hikes would allow the government to replace what employers and consumers currently pay for healthcare — delivering significant savings on administration and drug costs, but increased demand for care that would drive up spending, according to the report.
According to the report, the legislation’s federal health care commitments would reach approximately 10.7 of GDP by 2022, and rise to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP by 2031. But the study, conducted by senior research strategist Charles Blahous, said that those estimates were on the “conservative” side.
Sanders’ plan builds on Medicare, the insurance program for seniors. The proposal would require all U.S. residents to be covered with no copays and deductibles for medical services. The insurance industry would be regulated to play a minor role in the system.
Sanders is far from the only liberal lawmaker pushing the program. 2020 hopefuls like Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., endorsed a “Medicare for all” program last year.
Political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who beat House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., in a recent upset primary and instantly became a prominent face of the democratic socialist movement, also is promoting a “Medicare for all” platform and now she is pounding the campaign trails with Bernie Sanders pushing Medicare for All as well as other liberal programs that are going to cost the taxpayers.
“Enacting something like ‘Medicare for all’ would be a transformative change in the size of the federal government,” Blahous, who was a senior economic adviser to former President George W. Bush and a public trustee of Social Security and Medicare during the Obama administration, said.
Blahous’ study also found that “a doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan.”
But Sanders blasted the analysis as “grossly misleading and biased,” noting that the Mercatus Center receives funding from the conservative Koch brothers. Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch is on the center’s board.
“If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all, and achieve better health outcomes while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States cannot do the same,” Sanders said in a statement. “This grossly misleading and biased report is the Koch brothers’ response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for all’ program.”
A spokesman for Sanders said that the senator’s office has not done a cost analysis on the new plan, however, the estimates in the latest report are within the range for other cost projections for Sanders’ 2016 plan.
Sanders’ staff found an error in an original version of the Mercatus report, which counted a long-term care program that was in the 2016 proposal but not the current one. Blahous corrected it, reducing his estimate by about $3 trillion over 10 years. Blahous says the report is his own work, not the Koch brothers’.
Also called “single-payer” over the years, “Medicare for all” reflects a long-time wish among liberals for a government-run system that covers all Americans.
The idea won broad rank-and-file support after Sanders ran on it in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries. Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Democrats are debating whether single-payer should be a “litmus test” for national candidates.
The Mercatus analysis estimated the 10-year cost of “Medicare for all” from 2022 to 2031, after an initial phase-in. Its findings are similar to those of several independent studies of Sanders’ 2016 plan. Those studies found increases in federal spending over 10 years that ranged from $24.7 trillion to $34.7 trillion.
The Mercatus study takes issue with a key cost-saving feature of the plan — that hospitals and doctors will accept payment based on lower Medicare rates for all their patients.
The study found that the plan would reap substantial savings from lower prescription costs — $846 billion over 10 years — since the government would deal directly with drug makers. Savings from the streamlined administration would be even greater, nearly $1.6 trillion.
But other provisions of the plan are also expected to drive up spending, with coverage for nearly 30 million uninsured Americans, no copays and no deductibles and improved benefits on dental, vision and hearing.
The study estimated that doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes would not fully cover the additional costs.
So where do we get all the additional money to pay for this program or are there other options such as what will the restrictions on coverage look like?
More to follow!!!