Medicare for All Act of 2019
Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care serves patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.
The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being.
In this blog post, I will not discuss my personal political views nor will I use this as a medium for healthcare horror stories, like this sad story, this sad story, or this frustrating story… because we have heard these before. In this blog I will discuss facts of what I learned from 1) attending the EMU hosted event for ‘Medicare for All,’ and 2) reading through all the pages available online regarding H.R. 1384.
Medicare for All
I recently attended a town hall hosted at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on Saturday July 13th where Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (Michigan’s 12th District), Congresswoman Primila Jayapal (State of Washington 7th District), State Senator Jeff Irwin (Michigan’s 18th Senate District), State Representative Yousef Rabhi (Michigan’s 53rd District), State Representative Ronnie Peterson (Michigan’s 54th District), as well as Michigan Nurse Association Vice President Katie Scott were all discussing the ‘Medicare for All Act of 2019.’
They were having a discussion about H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019 which is a bill that would establish a national health insurance program to cover all U.S. residents. Currently (as of 7/15/19) the bill has 117 co-sponsors.
Speaker Panel Talking Points
To start with the discussion at EMU, I always appreciate an elected officials time (especially on a Saturday night) to discuss what impacts our community. Yes, they did start the panel discussion late, exactly 20 minutes- much like an overfilled physicians waiting room. However, much like those doctors we want to see, we can look past that.
To briefly summarize what they discussed, I felt the panel discussion had an overall vibe of a small group rally for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ with very little substance discussed. To be fair, each speaker only had about 5 minutes. However, 5 minutes should be enough time to pitch something they want to sell. And let’s be honest, our elected officials were trying to sell this bill to the room.
To start with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell’s talk, it was heavy on current healthcare disparity statistics in the US. She did offer some brief talking points such as “We are going to a single billing system that will eliminate a lot of costs.”
The bill claims savings of $500+ billion annually from reductions in costs of billing and administrative costs.
As you can see below of the graph of physicians and administrators from 1970 to 2009, administrative costs are having a major impact on healthcare spending.
I am curious to see how exactly they will implement this administrative cost savings. Does this mean simply cutting back (i.e.- firing) extra staffing? Those are jobs too. Many physician offices utilize administrative staffing such as front desk receptionists, a dedicated phone staff, nurse triage staff, laboratory staff, billing staff, imaging staff, medical record staff, transcription staff, and office management.
Congresswoman Primila Jayapal was next. Seattle, you should be proud, you elected a great official. I would be proud to have her represent me if I were there. I was impressed because I felt she actually covered more substance in her discussion than any of the other speakers regarding the ‘Medicare for All Act.’ She states the act will have four components:
- Cover Everyone ( Dr. O’Boyle likes this )
- No copays or deductibles and be able to go to any doctor or hospital you want to.
- Comprehensive coverage including primary care, vision, dental, substance abuse, mental health, maternal care, and more.
- Control costs.
Yay! Some material I can work with. Then congresswoman Jayapal says with these ‘controlled costs’ we will pay 14% less then now. WHAT! 14% ?? So that MRI, instead of being $1,400 is now $200 less? That colonoscopy that is billed at $5,000 is now only $4,300. This cost savings is not significant nor will it move the economic needle of medical costs.
Reading through H.R. 1384, I could honestly find only one section (616): Payments for Prescription Drugs and Approved Devices and Equipment that discussed any effort to reduce healthcare expenditure.
Has she heard of Direct Primary Care (DPC)? Does she know I can get a member an MRI for $300, or a colonoscopy for $700? Direct Primary Care is moving the needle on medical cost economics by saving our patients anywhere from 50-90% off of insurance billed costs.
Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin spoke next. Again, a good speaker. He discussed how doctors are fighting insurance companies over billing and how much a wasteful system this results in. Senator Irwin did say something I believe is important when discussing healthcare: speaking about what people value in their health and healthcare coverage. But, nothing that added any insight on the actual bill.
State Representative Yousef Rabhi discussed efforts from a Michigan effort to start universal healthcare plan called ‘MiCare.’ In an acknowledgement of supporting information to Representative Rabhi, he did discuss how he plans to fund MiCare through a vote of the people in Michigan for progressive taxation. Yet, to be fair to the audience, I felt his talk was a bit of a curve ball as all other speakers were focused on the federal bill and not the state bill.
State Representative Ronnie Peterson added some personal stories about his history of fighting for racial equality and now fighting for healthcare equality. Again, his talk was touching but added no material onto why or how the ‘Medicare for All Act’ would work.
The last speaker was Katie Scott, the vice-president of the Michigan Nursing Association. From her talk, I was able to pick out that she was an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse. Again with the story telling theme of the night, she gave a personal narrative of high prescription drug costs and how that impacted her.
I absolutely love what nurses do and think their roles are critical towards healthcare. However, ICU nurses and the need they fill are vastly different than what primary care doctors see and what a vast majority of people experience when we think of and utilize healthcare.
If the elected officials pushing for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ want to be serious, they need to get feedback and collaborate with the primary care providers out there already making changes in their communities. Instead of pushing for town halls on why we need change, Direct Primary Doctors are having town halls in communities on how we are already changing healthcare to improve patient access, improve price transparency, and reduce out of pocket costs on everything from office visits, medications, imaging, speciality care, and laboratory studies.