Everything you need to know about the Ways and Means Universal Healthcare Hearing

Yesterday, the House of Representatives held a historic hearing on achieving Universal Health Care in the Ways and Means committee. While the hearing was intended to be broad-strokes, it ended up focusing narrowly on Medicare for All.

If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing here, but if you don’t have 4 hours to spare today, let’s run through some highlights.

The hearing started with some extremely compelling testimony from patient advocate Rebecca Wood and her 6 year old daughter Charlie.

Rebecca joined the fight for Medicare for All when her daughter was born 3 months early, weighing barely over a pound. She stayed in the NICU for 3 months, and continually needed treatment for the whole early period of her childhood. Even though the family had employer-sponsored coverage from Charlie’s father, their life savings were wiped out, and they were financially devastated thanks to deductibles, copays, claim denials, and more. Even worse, Rebecca had to choose between Charlie’s treatment and her own, which resulted in Rebecca suffering from painful surgeries, infections, and medical treatments when she chose to prioritize her daughter’s needs.

“I’m lucky Charlie survived. I’m fortunate she thrived. However, it shouldn’t have cost me nearly everything. My story is one of profound policy failure…” said Rebecca. “Her name is Charlie, I joined the ACA and Medicaid fight for her, but I joined the Medicare for All fight for me. I have to believe all of this happened for a reason.”

We also heard compelling testimony from Dr. Don Berwick, a pediatrician, Harvard Medical school faculty member, and the former Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In the interest of full disclosure, Dr. Berwick is a member of the BIHP Advisory Board.

After describing his resume, Dr. Berwick got right to the point.

“I led Medicare for Some” he said. “And my experience made me confident that Medicare for All would be a wise choice for this country”

He went on to describe how Medicare for All would be the most efficient system for meeting the four goals of every healthcare system.

  1. To improve the quality of care for individuals.
  2. To improve the health of the population.
  3. To reduce costs by eliminating waste.
  4. To make sure no one is left out.

But despite these highly qualified expert witnesses, some members of Congress and witnesses like Grace-Marie Turner (the president of the conservative Galen Institute) decided to carry water for the healthcare industry, repeating their talking points and misleading the public about Medicare for All. Let’s address some of the most common claims they made.

 

CLAIM: Medicare for All would be too expensive for the American taxpayers to bare.

REALITY: The reality is, Medicare for All would save trillions of dollars over the next 10 years when compared with the status quo of the commercial insurance system. While organizations like the Political Economy Research Institute has found the savings to be around $5.1 trillion, even the libertarian leaning think-tank Mercatus Center found $2 trillion in savings over the next decade.

 

CLAIM: A single-payer Medicare for All system is a “government takeover of healthcare”.

REALITY Under Medicare for all, doctors, hospitals, and other providers will continue to operate privately and independently. This simply changes the way we finance the system, using a progressive tax system that offers more efficiency than the commercial profit driven multi-payer system.

 

CLAIM: Medicare for All would limit choices for patients and families.

REALITY: Right now, if a patient is lucky enough to have coverage, they must choose between a narrow network of doctors and hospitals. Medicare for All would give people more choices than ever, and finally allow them to go to any doctor, hospital, specialist, or provider they want to see.

 

CLAIM: Medicare for All would threaten Veterans and Seniors.

REALITY: Under the House Medicare for All bill, the Veterans Administration would be left in place, but, in addition to those benefits, veterans would also have the ability to access a wider range of doctors and providers instead of being forced to travel to a VA facility. The Medicare for All bill would also significantly expand benefits for current Medicare beneficiaries, while eliminating their deductibles and copays.

 

CLAIM: Medicare for All would create long-waits, rationing, and inability to access care.

REALITY: Our current system is what causes rationing. Last year, 44% of Americans didn’t go to a physician when they were sick or injured. 40% said they skipped a recommended test or treatment due to cost. 32% said they were unable to fill or decided to ration a prescription due to cost. Largely thanks to this self-rationing, we lag behind on life-expectancy, infant mortality, hospitalizations from preventable illness, and more. Medicare for All would finally eliminate all financial barriers to care.

 

There’s a long way to go in the fight for Medicare for All, but this hearing was a huge step, and gave us a chance to see the opposition in action. They’ll keep attempting to obfuscate the truth with fear tactics. The American public can and will keep demanding better.

 

Dylan Dusseault is the Executive Director of Business Initiative for Health Policy