New Surprise Billing Coalition; Private Insurance Costs Hit $20K; GM Responds to Pressure But Still Controls Workers’ Health Care.

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 WOULD END SURPRISE BILLING

Imagine going to the emergency room for a lifesaving operation and only later realizing that one of your doctors was not covered by your insurance. At home recuperating, out of work and in pain, you face a six-figure medical bill.

This unethical practice of surprise billing happens to one in six people every year and has bankrupted countless lives.

That’s why last week Public Citizen, along with 13 other organizations, launchedNo Surprises: People Against Unfair Medical Bills”— a new coalition that demands Congress enact legislation to end surprise billing. Public Citizen supports legislation to end these egregious abuses as one step toward the ultimate goal of providing health care to all Americans.

“While ending surprise billing would be a significant improvement for those with insurance who no longer would be unexpectedly charged out-of-network costs, we also need to think about the people who have no insurance,” said Eagan Kemp, health care policy advocate at Public Citizen. “Under Medicare for All, all Americans finally could focus on getting the treatment they need without worrying about whether unexpected medical bills will mean financial ruin.”

PRIVATE INSURANCE COSTS HIT $20K PER YEAR

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage have topped $20,000 this year, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Workers pay on average $6,015 toward that, with an average deductible of $1,655. This increase in premiums is growing at a much faster rate compared to workers’ wage increases and inflation, which hurts both families and businesses. Families also bear the brunt of co-pays, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs in addition to the portion of their premiums.

“Employer-sponsored coverage doesn’t come cheap for employers or workers, and many who work at low-wage firms or small business[es] likely find it too costly to cover their families,” said Gary Claxton, a KFF senior vice president and the lead author of the study.

Under Medicare for All, employees and families no longer would need to worry about premiums and deductibles, and small businesses wouldn’t carry the financial burden of providing insurance for their workers.

GM BACKTRACKS

General Motors has decided to reinstate health insurance for its protesting workers more than a week after disrupting their workers’ coverage.

But the damage already has been done. One woman who was on her husband’s GM plan woke up from a $40,000 stomach operation to realize her coverage was changed to a less comprehensive union plan.

“All of a sudden I am risking getting this major hospital bill we honestly couldn’t afford,” said Laura Prater of Spring Hill, Tenn.

While this decision finally might give GM some positive coverage, it doesn’t stop the fact that GM again could hold workers’ health insurance coverage hostage, as any employer could, leaving in limbo the more than 150 million Americans who rely on employer-based insurance.

REMINDER: Our system is rife with waste that Medicare for All would significantly reduce. Between one-quarter and one-third of U.S. health care dollars are spent on administrative functions, including insurance company overhead, administrative costs of providers and the costs of employers managing workers’ benefits.

Unlike through a public option or Medicare buy-in, Medicare for All could save more than $500 billion a year in administrative costs alone.  That would free up the resources needed to provide care for everyone.

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