Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care.
House and Senate Democrats introduced separate plans to expand health coverage but that don’t go as far as Medicare for All. took a swipe at ‘s health plan and CBO released a report on single payer
We’ll start with newly introduced health plans:
House Democrats introduce Medicare expansion plan
Medicare for All is not the only option for Democrats interested in expanding health coverage. House lawmakers on Wednesday re-introduced “Medicare for America” legislation sponsored by Reps. (D-Conn.) and (D-Ill.). The bill was released just a day after Democrats held the first-ever hearing about Medicare for All. Perhaps in a sign of Democratic unity, the rollout had originally been planned for Tuesday, but pushing it back a day allowed Medicare for All to rule the day yesterday.
Unlike Medicare for All, which is favored by many of the Democratic White House candidates, the plan from DeLauro and Schakowsky would not move the entire country into a single government-sponsored health plan.
It would instead preserve employer-based coverage for the millions of Americans who may want to keep their current plans, but employees would also have the option of enrolling in an expanded Medicare plan.
Who else likes this? On the 2020 trail, the only Democratic candidate to favor such an approach is former Rep. (D-Texas), who has cited the legislation as the best path toward achieving universal coverage. Still, the bill could give other candidates who might be reluctant to support Medicare for All another option. With the exception of Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and (D-Calif.), the 2020 candidates haven’t exactly been Medicare for All purists.
Democratic divide? The lawmakers said they don’t want their efforts to be viewed as an attack on the progressives who support Medicare for All; Schakowsky is one of the co-sponsors of the Medicare for All legislation and is a member of the “Medicare for All” caucus. “I don’t think there’s anything adversarial about this,” DeLauro told reporters. “Let’s have this debate. I personally don’t see it as a divide, I see it as a healthy robust debate.”
“Medicare for America” has the support of the Center for American Progress (CAP), a powerful Democratic think tank closely aligned with the Clintons. CAP has been advocating for a more moderate approach to health care than Medicare for All, which has recently put its leaders in the crosshairs of Sanders, who is running for president on his own Medicare for All plan.
On the other side of the Capitol…
Senators release Medicare buy-in plan
The “Choose Medicare Act” from Sens. (D-Conn.) and (D-Ore.) enters a crowded field of Democratic health proposals to either expand on, or move past, ObamaCare. It would create a public option for individuals and employers. It would give every individual who is not already eligible for Medicaid or Medicare the opportunity to enroll in the program as an individual.
It would also give employers the ability to purchase Medicare for their employees. It doesn’t go as far as “Medicare for America,” but it would create an entirely new category of Medicare, called Part E. The plan would be offered on all state and federal exchanges, and people could use the existing ObamaCare subsidies to help pay for it.
The legislation has the backing of 2020 Democratic candidates Kamala Harris (D-Calif), (D-N.J.), (D-N.Y.).
Sanders criticizes Biden health plan: ‘It doesn’t go anywhere near far enough’
Some rare direct criticism in the Democratic primary: Bernie Sanders is criticizing Joe Biden’s health care plan.
“It doesn’t go anywhere near far enough,” Sanders told reporters in the Capitol when asked about the former vice president’s plan. “It will be expensive, it will not cover a whole lot of people.”
Why it matters: Biden and Sanders are the two leaders in early polls, with Biden occupying a more moderate lane in contrast to Sanders’s proudly leftward stances. Sanders is now openly criticizing Biden’s proposals.
The key policy difference: Sanders’s signature plan, of course, is Medicare for All, which would require everyone to be on a government-run health insurance plan. Biden, in contrast, wants to give people the option of buying into Medicare, while allowing private insurance to remain as an option.
Independence Blue Cross CEO seeks to explain appearance at Biden fundraiser
Dan Hilferty, the CEO of the health insurer Independence Blue Cross, spoke with The Hill to push back on discussion of his appearance at a fundraiser for Joe Biden last week.
Hilferty said that he attended “as an individual” because he has known the former vice president for almost 30 years and “wanted to show admiration.”
He said that he did not discuss health policy with Biden at the event or any other time recently.
Biden is not supporting Medicare for all, a policy that is also strongly opposed by health insurers.
Biden is supporting a public option to allow anyone to buy into Medicare, an idea insurers also oppose. Hilferty declined to comment directly on Biden’s proposal, saying that he believes in a bipartisan approach and “universal coverage through public-private partnership.”
CBO releases report on single payer
The Congressional Budget Office released a report about the impact of switching to single payer health care. The highly anticipated report did not include a price tag, or any sort of formal considerations of the “Medicare for All” legislation.
Essentially, the report could be called “Single Payer 101.” It looked at what types of services would be covered, how people would enroll, and the types of choices lawmakers would need to make in order to make the switch.
Key findings: Single payer opponents found a lot to be happy with. The report laid out the economic disruptions that would occur if the government were to move away from the current system. CBO said single payer would be “a major undertaking that would involve substantial changes in the sources and extent of coverage, provider payment rates, and financing methods of health care in the United States.”
It warned about the increased demand and the pressure it would put on providers, while imposing new costs. But importantly, the report hit on one of the most convincing arguments for changing the current system– the cost.
“Because healthcare spending in the United States currently accounts for about one-sixth of the nation’s gross domestic product, those changes could significantly affect the overall U.S. economy,” the report said.
The politics: Republicans were ready and used the report’s limited scope to note that Democrats did not want people to know just how much sifting to single payer will cost.
“Democrats avoided asking questions they don’t want the answers to,” House Budget Committee Ranking Member (R-Ark.) said. But on the other side, Chairman (D-Ky.) said he hopes the report can help advance the shift. “I believe it is no longer a matter of if we will have a single-payer health care system in our country, but when,” he said.
Kansas Medicaid expansion fails by single vote
Republicans in the Kansas Senate successfully fought a motion to bring legislation expanding Medicaid out of committee. The bill fell one vote shy of the 24 needed to advance it. Medicaid expansion is a priority of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who made it a key aspect of her election campaign. The legislature approved Medicaid expansion last year, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback (R). Lawmakers were unable to gain enough votes to override the veto.
In a statement Wednesday, Kelly named two GOP state senators who she said were holding back coverage for hundreds of thousands of people.
“Medicaid expansion is one of the most critical issues left to address this year. There are only two senators – Susan Wagle and Jim Denning – who are preventing a vote on this bill. There are two senators who are preventing 150,000 hardworking Kansans from having access to health care. Over 70 percent of Kansans support Medicaid expansion. Now is the time to get it done,” Kelly said.
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Democrats could still try to insert a Medicaid expansion provision into the state’s budget through the next appropriations bill.
What we’re reading:
Diabetic amputations a shameful metric of inadequate care (Kaiser Health News)
They want it to be secret: how a common blood test can cost $11 or almost $1,000 (The New York Times)
Court upholds rules barring women with high testosterone from track races (The New York Times)
State by state
As retiree health care bills mount, some states have a solution: stop paying (The Wall Street Journal)
Public health care option headed to governor for signature (Peninsula Daily News)
Veto override of ‘abortion pill’ bill falls one vote short. Lawmakers will try again (Kansas City Star)
From The Hill’s opinion page:
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Overnight Health Care: House Dems introduce moderate Medicare expansion plan | CBO releases analysis on single payer | Sanders knocks Biden health care plan
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