Frontline Workers, Patients Decry Corporate Health Care; Doctors Want Medicaid Expansion

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 health care industry lies and falsehoods about universal health care. Please send tips, feedback and questions to Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.

FRONTLINE CORONAVIRUS DOCTORS, PATIENTS, BUSINESSES LAMENT FOR-PROFIT HEALTH CARE

“I hoped that either all these patients’ care would be covered or that insurers and hospitals wouldn’t be so ruthless as to bankrupt these patients. But these naïve sentiments have no place in this broken, profit driven system,” said Dr. Anna Stratis, a family physician who worked at Woodhull Hospital Brooklyn, N.Y. during the height of the pandemic.

Stratis’ story was just one of several told during a telepresser last week hosted by Public Citizen on Medicare’s 55th anniversary on how the profit-driven health care industry has harmed doctors, patients, businesses, workers and people of color.

“Health insurance should never be tied to employment status – period. About 90% of our union members have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and may soon lose their health insurance – as millions of other Americans already have,” said Ada Briceño, co-president of UNITE HERE Local 11, which represents 20,000 hotel and hospitality workers in southern California. “Medicare for All is the fix to this problem.”

Other speakers included Dr. Susan Rogers, president-elect of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), and a retired Chicago-based doctor and Jen Kimmich, owner of Alchemist Brewery in Stowe, Vt., who had to lay off employees due to the economic downturn and spoke about the burden of employee health insurance costs.

Audio of the telepresser and videos from the participants are available here.

MEDICAL COLLEGES, DOCTORS DEMAND EXPANSION OF HEALTH CARE

It appears doctors and medical colleges are finally realizing that tying health care to employment might not be the best idea – especially during the worst pandemic in a century and the worst economic quarter in recent history.

As millions of Americans continue to lose their jobs each week, 63% of doctors now say that Medicaid at least should cover unemployed Americans by default, according to a recent poll by Data for Progress. This is despite Medicaid paying far less for services than private insurance.

“We face a national emergency and that failure to provide health care to those who don’t have it, in the middle of a deadly and highly contagious pandemic, will put lives at risk,” said Dr. Rob Davison, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare.

And the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) – which hasn’t taken a position on single-payer health care – said last week that major changes need to happen to stem the pandemic, including “broadening health insurance,” “addressing and resolving health care inequalities” and “strengthening the nation’s public health infrastructure.”

Hey AAMC, we have the perfect plan for that: Medicare for All.

AS 150,000 AMERICANS DIE, PHARMA AND INSURERS EYE PROFITS

When insurers and Big Pharma see a pandemic, they don’t see an opportunity to save lives and improve treatment – they only see financial opportunity.

Following the footsteps of UnitedHealth’s record setting profits, Anthem saw its Q2 profit double to nearly $2.3 billion – well past expectations – in large part because of a reduced drop in claims due to the pandemic. Molina’s Q2 profit also jumped 40% to $276 million.

The insurers’ 2020 earnings forecasts remain unchanged, despite the health insurance lobbying groups begging Congress for bailout relief and claiming insurers will be harmed by the pandemic, leading them to threaten increased premiums in 2021.

At the same time, pharmaceutical corporations jacked-up the price of 245 drugs over the past six months – 61 of which were being used to treat the coronavirus while 30 were used in ongoing clinical trials against the virus.

PUBLIC CITIZEN’S WORK

Public Citizen has advocated for single-payer health care since our founding in 1971 and has worked for decades to end profiteering and waste in health care – whether from insurers, Big Pharma or hospitals.

Public Citizen is dedicated to building the grassroots movement we will need to win Medicare for All. Along with our 500,000 members and allies, Public Citizen works with local elected officials in cities, counties and towns from coast to coast to pass resolutions supporting Medicare for All and send a powerful signal to Congress that health care is a human right.

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.