Medicare for all plan will shut down rural hospitals

June 12, 2019 - 2:05 pm

At a U.S. House Ways and Means Committee hearing today titled 'Pathways to Universal Health Coverage', Congressman Ron Estes (R-Kansas) condemned Medicare for All and similar proposals that would expand government-run health care and negatively impact rural critical access hospitals.

"For nearly a decade, the health care industry has been thrown into chaos, costs have risen, and choice has been decimated. Unfortunately, instead of new approaches to increase competition and lower costs, my colleagues are advocating for one-size-fits-all, government-run health care," said Rep. Estes. "Democrat’s Medicare for All plan will double taxes, jeopardize rural hospitals, eliminate the Hyde Amendment, and eliminate all private and employer health insurance for 158 million Americans. Instead of government-run health care, we need a free market system that has more affordable options and allows individuals to choose the plan that works best for them and their families."

Under Medicare for All, 1.5 million citizens in Kansas would lose their private and employer insurance, including 507,000 individuals in the Fourth District.

During the hearing, Rep. Estes highlighted the impact Medicare for All would have on rural health care. Kansas has 83 rural critical access hospitals, the second largest number in the country, which get reimbursed at 101% of the cost. Under Medicare for All, their reimbursement would be slashed by 40% below current payment rates.

Rep. Estes questioned Galen Institute President Grace-Marie Turner about the impact slashing this reimbursement rate would have on critical access hospitals. She responded, "I think that the rural hospitals would be among the most vulnerable because they often are relying even more now on Medicare and Medicaid payments and have fewer private people supporting them... If you put all of them on these much lower government payment rates, it's very hard to see how most of them would be able to keep their doors open."

Rep. Estes also discussed wait times in countries that have already implemented similar government-run health care. In Canada, the median wait time is 19.8 weeks for patients to see a specialist after receiving a referral from a general practitioner. Canadians also have median wait times of 4.3 weeks for a CT scan, 10.6 weeks for a MRI, and 3.9 weeks for an ultrasound. In Britain, 1 in 5 cancer patients have to wait over two months for treatment after being referred from a general practitioner. Rep. Estes pointed to the example of inexcusable wait times at the VA for what government-run health care in the U.S. looks like.

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