Medicare for all is the rallying cry for an election-ready progressive health agenda that forgot that the party of progressives already promised us a health care system for everybody.
We didn’t get what we were promised. That doesn’t mean we won’t get more fraudulent guarantees.
Progressive health agenda: people-centered fraud
Surprise House Candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls it “people-centered” healthcare,1 a populist take on the patient-centered promise that Democrats failed to deliver and the GOP’s American Health Care Act never came close to.
Keith Ellison, who was just replaced by Mark Pocan (D-WI) as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, got Bernie Sanders’ backing when he revived H.R. 676. The Expanded And Improved Medicare For All Act is sponsored by 122 Democrats. This House bill and Sanders’ Senate version, S. 1804, propose to do what Obamacare never did:
I’m honored to be charged by my colleagues with carrying on the legacy of John Conyers’ historic bill to establish health care as a right,” said Rep. Keith Ellison.2
Making health care a right isn’t right because the government can’t manage the responsibility. Neither can the politicians who already gave national health care a try, caved on the public option, and then failed to deliver on their promise of affordability.
Ellison questioned why Americans have to choose between spending on health care and buying food.3 He should ask Jeff Sessions, whose agency recently caught another 600 people with their hands in the Medicare till to the tune of $2 billion in false billings.4 That sweep was on top of another DOJ “National Health Care Fraud takedown” worth $1.3 billion in phony charges.5
According to the Health Care Fraud Unit, we could be losing $100 billion a year to health care fraud.6 The number could be more. It could be less. We simply don’t know and never will.
The question we’ll be asking if Medicare for all and other progressive agenda items become law is why taxpayers who aren’t destitute have to pay their taxes and scrape to put food on the tables of others. Health care premiums already take sizeable bites out of paychecks. That includes the 300% increase I’ve seen in my own monthly bill over the past four years.
Affordability flubs, fraud flourishes
The Affordable Care Act flubbed the affordability test. We will never know how much of the spending is legitimate and how much is fraud:
As part of a “secret shopper” investigation, GAO created 18 fictitious identities to apply for premium subsidies through the federal Exchange by telephone, online and in-person. With only one exception, GAO was able to get premium tax credits and health insurance with fake information through telephone and online applications.7
That’s an anecdotal report to be sure, but generosity is built into the bill:
Obamacare starts by assuming a person is a legal resident and sends the money right away – even if the verification process is still incomplete.8
We’ve been there and done that with most federal benefits programs. Generosity begets fraud and being a progressive or liberal Democrat is all about being generous with other people’s money.
Progressive spending programs riddled with fraud
Progressive spending programs are some of the most fraud-riddled in Washington. Food Stamps (“SNAP”), housing benefits, Medicaid, Medicare, and unemployment insurance are all on the progressive list. They all fall victim to fraud and abuse. There is simply too much money being doled out to keep track. It’s easier to hand out benefits and worry about it later than take a chance on an unfair denial.
Improper payments alone are astronomical for some of our biggest handouts. Rates are as high as 10.1% for Medicaid, 23.87% for the Earned Income Credit, 12.5% for unemployment insurance, and 15.3% for the National School Lunch Program.
Is health care fraud really about corporations?
Some progressive Democrats still think Medicare is about health care for seniors. They admit fraud is rampant. A bill to clamp down on these taxpayer losses was revived again in May 2018:
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., joined up with U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass., to bring back the “Fighting Medicare Fraud Act” which they first launched in 2014. They also brought the bill back in 2016. As they geared up to he [sic] two representatives noted that Medicare frauds costs taxpayers between $60-$90 billion each year.9
H.R. 5757 never had much support and the newest attempt to protect seniors only has three cosponsors. Perhaps Democrats know stopping health care fraud is a fool’s errand. Perhaps they are embarrassed by Rep. Frankel blaming the corporate catch-all when she asserts the bill will:
Close a loophole that corrupt CEOs and corporations have used to continue abusing Medicare. Currently, if a company is under investigation for Medicare fraud and the CEO resigns before receiving a penalty, he or she may legally start a new company and potentially launch a new Medicare fraud scheme.10
Frankel is right about one thing. The program was meant for seniors who paid into their federal health care benefits while they worked and continue to pay premiums for a fraud and abuse-laden benefit. Now they risk getting thrown into plans for a national health care melting pot where costs are spread and decisions will be made based on affordability and outcomes.
Not fraud, just big spending
It’s not all about fraud. Like Social Security, when there is a pile of money to be handed out Democrats rise to the task.
Grants and federal funding help keep politicians in office. Both liberal and progressive values dictate this kind of spending. Just visit the website of any member of the House or Senate. Have a look at their list of accomplishments. Most involve spending tax dollars.
For example, Progressive Caucus member Matt Cartwright (D-PA) recently announced a cash award of $1,793,347 to the Rural Health Corp. of Northeastern Pennsylvania.11 Rhode Island Rep. and Progressive Caucus Vice Chair David Cicilline (D-RI) announced $11 million going to women’s health research in a local hospital.12
The number of programs supported by Health and Human Services is jaw dropping. Medicare for All is not going to put a stop to this. To the contrary, it’s likely to spur a host of new grants to figure out ways to keep people healthier and cut health care costs because like Obama’s Affordable Care Act we will hear promises about the progressive health agenda long before we get the bill.
Progressive Caucus members have come up with other ways to make life difficult for employers already overburdened by ACA regulations. California Rep. and Progressive Caucus Vice Chair Ro Khanna proposed legislation to require job creators to come up with plans for violence in the workplace:
Based on this [California workplace violence prevention] standard, the Health Care Workplace Violence Prevention Act would direct the Secretary of Labor to issue an OSHA rule that requires health care employers to adopt a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan. The violence prevention plan must be developed with input from all affected parties including, but not limited to, doctors, nurses, and custodial staff.13
When the Federal Government controls every aspect of health care this is what we can look forward to. Rising costs, regulation, initiatives dictated by current events and politicized crises.
Progressive Democrats don’t have the right to make healthcare unaffordable for working Americans while they make it cheap and easy for those with no money. That’s the system we’re struggling under now.
The party doesn’t have the right to impose a national health care system that necessarily wastes even more money than we’re already losing to fraud and bad payments, but taxpayers better believe that this new thrust for a progressive health agenda will include Medicare Fraud for All.
1. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Platform.” Ocasio 2018. https://ocasio2018.com/issues, retrieved July 19, 2018.
2. “Ellison Becomes Lead House Sponsor of Medicare for All.” Keith Ellison. March 8, 2018. https://ellison.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/ellison-becomes-lead-house-sponsor-of-medicare-for-all, retrieved July 18, 2018.
4. “National Healthcare Fraud Takedown Results In Charges Against Over 600 Individuals, Including Several Chicago-Area Medical Professionals.” United States Department of Justice. June 28, 2018. https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndil/pr/national-healthcare-fraud-takedown-results-charges-against-over-600-individuals, retrieved July 18, 2018.
5. “National Health Care Fraud Takedown Results in Charges Against Over 412 Individuals Responsible for $1.3 Billion in Fraud Losses.” The United States Department of Justice. July 13, 2017. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/national-health-care-fraud-takedown-results-charges-against-over-412-individuals-responsible, retrieved July 18, 2018.
6. “Health Care Fraud Unit.” The United States Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/health-care-fraud-unit, retrieved July 19, 2018.
7. “Fake Applications for ObamaCare Tax Subsidies Show How Vulnerable Health Care Law is to Fraud & Abuse.” United States Senate Committee on Finance. July 23, 2014. https://www.finance.senate.gov/ranking-members-news/fake-applications-for-obamacare-tax-subsidies-show-how-vulnerable-health-care-law-is-to-fraud-and-abuse, retrieved July 19, 2018.
8. “Passed in the House: Bill Protects Health Care Tax Credits from Waste, Fraud, Abuse.” Committee on Ways and Means. June 13, 2017. https://waysandmeans.house.gov/passed-house-bill-protects-health-care-tax-credits-waste-fraud-abuse/, retrieved July 19, 2018.
9. “Lois Frankel, Bill Keating Team Up Again to Take On Medicare Fraud.” Lois Frankel. May 11, 2018. https://frankel.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=768, retrieved July 19, 2018.
10. Frankel, Keating Re-Introduce Bill to Protect Seniors by Fighting Medicare Fraud. Lois Frankel. May 10, 2018. https://frankel.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=754, retrieved July 19, 2018.
11. “Cartwright Announces Over $1.5 Million in HHS Funds to Rural Health Corporation of Northeastern PA.” Matt Cartwright. June 7, 2018. https://cartwright.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/cartwright-announces-over-15-million-in-hhs-funds-to-rural-health, retrieved July 19, 2018.
12. “RI Delegation Announces $11 Million to Help Women & Infants Hospital in Providence Bolster Women’s Health Research.” David Cicilline. March 29, 2017. https://cicilline.house.gov/press-release/ri-delegation-announces-11-million-help-women-infants-hospital-providence-bolster, retrieved July 19, 2018.
13. “Release: Rep. Khanna Introduces bill Requiring Health Care Employers to Implement Workplace Prevention Plans.” Ro Khanna. March 8, 2018. https://khanna.house.gov/media/press-releases/release-rep-khanna-introduces-bill-requiring-health-care-employers-implement, returned July 19, 2018.
Paymentaccuracy.gov link updated June 20, 2020.