Health Insurers Mount Battle Against Medicare for All

August 13, 2019

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Source: Benefits Pro

If health insurers have their way, Medicare for All will be a nonstarter. And they’ve got the lobbying battle lines drawn to prove it—with pharmaceutical companies on their side.

The Hartford Courant reports that insurers, which dominate the state economy in Connecticut, have teamed up not just with the pharmaceutical industry but also with the American Medical Association and the Federation of American Hospitals in a pitched-battle effort to keep “Medicare for All proposals and other Democratic plans to alter the nation’s health care” from becoming reality.

The alliance’s ammunition includes a battery of digital and television ads aimed at undermining support for Medicare-for-all proposals and plans for a “public option.” The ads are being run under the aegis of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a blanket organization including insurers and their allies. The partnership, which was formed a little over a year ago, aims at protecting the existing health care system, including the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid.

But now that the Republicans’ desperate attempt in 2017 to repeal the ACA is history, the group has stayed together to defend its mutual interests—which are now threatened by the potential for some version of Medicare for All or a public option that would rein in profits. Insurers, for their part, oppose all Democratic proposals for a change in health care that were addressed during the two nights of candidate debates.

The groups have plenty of clout, especially in Connecticut, where data from industry group and member of the alliance America’s Health Insurance Plan reveal that the health insurance industry “employs 12,296 workers directly and generates another 13,586 jobs indirectly,” as well as being responsible for payrolls totaling more than $3.8 billion a year with average annual salaries of $112,770.

That number could be even higher, according to the Connecticut Association of Health Plans. According to its numbers, Connecticut employs 25,000 health insurance industry workers directly and as many as 24,000 indirectly. In addition, premium taxes collected annually in Connecticut on policies sold in the state are nothing to sneeze at, either, amounting to nearly $200 million.

Connecticut, unsurprisingly, failed to pass a public option during 2019’s last legislative session.

Spending behind the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future is big, and likely to get bigger, with members already having spent a combined $143 million lobbying on Capitol Hill just 2018, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. And AHIP all by itself, says the report, spent more than $5 million on lobbying expenses just in the first six months of this year, looking likely to top the $6.7 million it spent on lobbying in 2018.

Still, there’s plenty of Democratic opposition to the status quo these days. After Senator Bernie Sanders, I-VT, started the discussion with his championing of Medicare for All, Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, said in the most recent debates, “These insurance companies do not have a God-given right to make $23 billion in profits and suck it out of our health care system.”


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