Kilmer: 2 Medicare for All questions Democrats need to answer
The race for president is now fully on with debates underway and a spread of more than 20 Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination. Among the many issues likely to be discussed is health care. Specifically, Medicare for All is a top concern.
“I have talked with too many people who feel they are an illness away, or an accident away, from financial despair,” Congressman Derek Kilmer told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross. “I’ve talked with too many people who have gone through that process.”
Kilmer represents Washington’s 6th Congressional District, which covers much of the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsulas. He is friends and colleagues with many Democratic candidates who will have to speak on the issue. Also, fellow Congress member Pramila Jayapal introduced a Medicare for All bill in February. It has 107 co-sponsors.
But Kilmer says that there are two main issues that need to be addressed if Democrats are going to be successful on Medicare for All.
What does Medicare for All mean in terms of people’s ability to get health care?
“I represent the Olympic Peninsula and a lot of rural providers, and I’ve asked each one of the hospitals in my district to tell me about their payer mix and ‘where do you make money and where do you lose money?’” Kilmer said. “They take a bath on Medicaid — most of them, they lose money. And they lose money on Medicare as well. They make it up on commercial payers, on private pay, and people who have employer-provided insurance.”
Kilmer has also asked the hospitals in his district what they thought about moving every person onto the Medicare system.
“Their response has been, ‘if we do that without a substantial increase in reimbursement, we’re in real trouble.’ Because right now we lose money on Medicare patients.”
What about the 160 million Americans with employer-provided insurance?
Kilmer argues that Democrats have to assure people with employer-provided insurance that their option is better and more affordable.
“I haven’t seen that answered clearly, that it would be a better plan,” Kilmer said.
“As a Democrat, I am absolutely for universal health care, making sure that everyone in this country has access to affordable, quality health care,” he said.
But Kilmer further argues that there are multiple routes to attaining universal health care. A single-payer system or Medicare for All is just one. He points to the Netherlands as an example. There are protections like those provided by the Affordable Care Act, there is also private insurance, and Medicare for All who want it.
“Which I’ve been supportive of,” Kilmer said. “The notion that if someone doesn’t want health care through their employer, or has access to that, they are able to get health care through one of the public systems, whether that be Medicaid or Medicare.”
Part of the equation has to be greater access to affordable prescription drugs. Kilmer believes that will be part of the conversation moving forward as well. But just the fact that the conversation exists is a win on the issue. The congressman notes that a few years ago, debates about Medicare for All weren’t happening. The fact committees are discussing proposals means progress is happening.
“There’s a lot of issues wrapped up in health care and thankfully, because the House is under new management, you are seeing some forward motion on this stuff.”