Verma argues 'Medicare for all' would cause physician shortage
CMS Administrator Seema Verma on Tuesday sounded a warning bell against Democrats' proposal to implement "Medicare for all," claiming patients would struggle to find a doctor if the policy comes to fruition.
Verma homed in on the fact that Medicare doesn't cover the provider expenses incurred during care during her speech to insurers at America's Health Insurance Plans' Medicare conference in Washington. Medicare only reimburse physicians for 80% of their costs on average, whereas private insurance tends to cover the cost of care, according to researchers.
Medicare for all "would decimate physician networks, creating a permanent physician shortage," Verma said.
In essence, the 170 million Americans who have private insurance subsidize the care provided to 60 million Americans under Medicare, Verma said.
"Under 'Medicare for all,' you either take private insurance away from those 170 million Americans, or greatly restrict access to it, meaning there is no relief valve for physicians facing up to 40% payment cuts," she said.
While "Medicare for all" supporters claim the program's administrative costs are lower than those of private insurance, Verma said that "isn't exactly something to brag about.
"We review less than two-tenths of a percent of the over 1 billion claims that Medicare receives a year," she said. "Given the scope and size of the Medicare program, that is ridiculously low."
Verma wasn't alone in criticizing Democrats' "Medicare for all" proposals on Tuesday. Across the capital, American Medical Association President Dr. Barbara McAneny said there needs to be a balance of privately insured individuals to offset the financial losses from Medicare patients.
If Medicare covered everyone, McAneny said she wouldn't be able to maintain her rural oncology practices.
"My doors would be closed. I wouldn't be able to make payroll. I wouldn't be able to make rent," she said.
Verma's remarks come three weeks before midterm elections. Thirty-three of the 57 Democrats who won primaries in swing districts this year supported some form of "Medicare for all," according to data from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Nearly two-thirds of that group use the term in their campaign materials and just over a quarter are running in districts that President Donald Trump won.
Verma has already said that she will deny any state waivers that attempt to implement "Medicare for all."
Supporters of the progressive concept maintain that doctors will stick around to treat patients even if they're paid Medicare rates for all customers.
"The idea that doctors won't work for Medicare pay is nonsense. What will they do, sell shoes instead?" said Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
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