The nation’s top Medicare official said on ‘Fox & Friends’ Wednesday that Democrats' “Medicare-for-all” proposal amounts to “the biggest threat to the American health care system,” claiming the policy would lead to worse care and longer wait times.
“I’ve been saying that Medicare-for-all is the biggest threat to the American health care system,” Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma said. “What we’re talking about is stripping people of their private health insurance, forcing them into a government-run program.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unveiled his latest Medicare-for-all plan last week -- legislation that was endorsed by other 2020 Democratic hopefuls Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. A similar bill has been introduced in the House.
Such plans would abolish almost all private coverage. Proponents have said such plans would give access to health care to all, recognizing it as a human right.
Some estimates put the 10-year cost of the plan at more than $32 trillion. Sanders said at a Fox News town hall on Monday that it would mean many Americans would "pay more in taxes." But he also argued the plan's costs would replace premiums and deductibles already being paid by American families, claiming many would pay less in the end.
"I am concerned about the debt. That's a legitimate concern," Sanders said. "But we pay for what we are proposing. In terms of Medicare for All, we are paying for that by eliminating as I said before, deductibles and premiums. We are going to save the average American family money."
An informal poll of the audience on Monday showed most in attendance indicating they could support such a plan.
But Verma noted that socialized health care systems in other countries have problems of their own -- including long wait times and poor care -- leading citizens to travel to the U.S. for drugs and care they can't access at home.
“So this is a bureaucracy that’s going to be making decisions about everybody’s healthcare, what kind of benefits they can have, what kind of medications that they can have access to,” she said. “And if we look at other socialized countries that have tried this approach, what do we see there? Long wait times, poor quality health care and that’s why those people are flying to the United States to get their health care.”
“The reality is we’re having problems today paying for the Medicare program and the trustees have warned about solvency, so adding more people to the program is only going to exacerbate it,” she said.
The plan has also seen skepticism from Democrats in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in February that "Medicare-for-all” may not be “as good a benefit as the Affordable Care Act.”
“It doesn’t have catastrophic [coverage] -- you have to go buy it. It doesn’t have dental. It’s not as good as the plans that you can buy under the Affordable Care Act,” she told Rolling Stone in an interview. “So I say to them, come in with your ideas, but understand that we’re either gonna have to improve Medicare — for all, including seniors — or else people are not gonna get what they think they’re gonna get. ... And by the way, how’s it gonna be paid for?”