Employees Have No Real Choices; Opioid Crisis; More Hospitals Shutter

Public Citizen Has You Covered

Welcome to this week’s edition of “We’ve Got You Covered,” a weekly tipsheet designed to highlight key news about Medicare for All and call out the biggest industry lies and falsehoods about universal health care. Please send tips, feedback and questions to Mike Stankiewicz at mstankiewicz@citizen.org or (202) 588-7779.

MEDICARE FOR ALL AND THE OPIOID CRISIS

Last week the Trump administration “forgot” to renew a declaration calling the nation’s opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The White House first announced the emergency two years ago, noting that about 50,000 Americans die each year from opioid overdoses. But progress on the crisis has been sluggish and clearly no longer has the attention of the president.

There is a way to effectively combat this crisis. Medicare for All would help the fight against the epidemic by providing tools for federal, state and local officials to address the crisis. It would provide steady financial budgets to fund programs to treat overdose patients and ensure funding for substance use clinics so more people can get treated. It would also prevent Big Pharma corporations from flooding the market with more addictive drugs and ensure that corporations can’t profit by hiking of the price of naloxone or other treatments.

THERE REALLY IS NO ‘CHOICE’ IN COVERAGE

A recent AXIOS article outlined how Americans really have little choice when it comes to their health care plans under the current system, and how the 150 million Americans who get their coverage through their employment are left at the mercy of their employers for their options.

The reporter noted that employers are the ones who shop for health care plans and most employees are given only one option. And while some employees are presented with more than one coverage option, it often comes from the same insurer and with only minimal variation in coverage and cost. Most people who buy insurance through the marketplaces only have a handful of plans to choose from, or sometimes no choice at all.

Thankfully, under Medicare for All Americans would be given actual choices.

Under the policy, every provider and doctor would be in-network, allowing Americans to choose the doctors, specialists or hospitals best for them without worrying about out-of-network prices or surprise billing.

MORE HOSPITAL CLOSURES

Under the current profit-based health system many hospitals are financially struggling and are shuttering at record pace.

Kindred Healthcare has announced it will close four Houston-area hospitals in the next two months, laying off hundreds of health care workers. Bon Secours Mercy Health in Cincinnati also announced it plans to shutter Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and lay-off about 1,000 employees due to its inability to sustain hospital operations. The shutdowns are part of a larger trend as 47 hospitals closed last year, more than double the previous year.

Under most private insurers, hospitals are paid on a fee-for-service basis, which hurts hospitals that don’t have a consistent flow of patients or that provide lower tech care or uncompensated care for people without insurance. Under Medicare for All, there would be no more uncompensated care and global budgeting would ensure that hospitals are paid based on the health needs of their community, as well as emergency and other funds, ensuring that hospitals wouldn’t need to close for financial reasons.

REMINDER: One of the most crucial constituencies where support is growing for Medicare for All is among physicians. A recent survey found that more than 55% of doctors now support a single-payer system, while in 2008, nearly 60% expressed opposition. In interviews conducted by the Merritt Hawkins, physicians expressed exhaustion with paperwork and billing under the current system, which takes away time from treating patients. The American College of Physicians also recently endorsed Medicare for All.

To speak with a Medicare for All policy expert, or if you have questions about Public Citizen’s work, please contact Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.