Medicare “Buy-In” Proposals Are Another Path Towards Single-Payer Health Care

By: Kevin St. James – April, 2019

saint jamesAs we welcome the 2020 presidential contenders to New Hampshire we need to get to know and scrutinize their policy proposals. Early on, Medicare for All became a battle cry for many of the candidates, until it got so many bad headlines that some of the candidates have started discussing a more “moderate approach” to health care reform, the so-called Medicare buy-in proposals. But the truth is, these proposals provide more questions than answers and even their supporters admit that they will put an end to the choice and control Americans have today through competing coverage options.

Here’s the point: In the end, Medicare buy-in or public option proposals would result in a one-size-fits-all health care system run by politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, and there is nothing “moderate” about that.

Medicare buy-in plans are nothing new and have been floating around in Washington for decades, most recently during the 2009 Affordable Care Act debate. They’ve been shot down in the past for good reason.

Under Medicare buy-in, market-based plans like highly popular and stable employer-sponsored coverage would be eroded by a government-run program, and patients would see fewer and fewer options until only the government-run plan remained. As one health care expert stated, “the public option won’t be an ‘option’ at all – it will be the only health plan available.”

Rather than addressing the root causes of high health care costs, these government plans simply make huge cuts to the amount paid to doctors and hospitals, forcing these health care providers to put limits on the care they provide – which is bad news for patients. For folks here in New Hampshire and across the country, this would mean fewer choices and options as the entire health care market is destabilized. It would also create huge disruptions to people’s care as they are forced away from their current coverage, doctors and hospitals – plus it would produce longer wait times and a lower quality of care as doctors and hospitals struggle to provide services in the face of big cuts to their resources.

And this doesn’t even take into account the massive price tag of such a program which would force American families – including those who cannot afford it – to pay in higher taxes. Further, it remains to be seen how pushing millions more Americans into Medicare would affect the program’s trust fund, as well as the more than 200,000 Granite Staters who rely on Medicare and have paid into it for years. It’s not fair for politicians to put all Americans’ health care, especially that of seniors, at risk by making these massive changes to our system.

Today, more Americans have access to health care than ever and recent polling indicates that the vast majority of Americans are satisfied with their current healthcare coverage thanks to the way private and public programs are working together. Patients with pre-existing conditions are protected and young adults can stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 years old.

Is there more that can and must be done to ensure affordability and accessibility for all Americans? Yes, of course. But a government program that would force Americans off their existing coverage, eliminate choices, and subject patients to serious disruptions and a lower quality of care? That is not the solution. Let’s insist that the presidential candidates offer us real, practical health care solutions. ◊

Respectfully, Kevin P. St. James, County Commissioner