The Hill

Medicare For All Linked To Delays In Cancer Treatment, Detection

Insurance industry stocks have dropped after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Democrats pushed for “Medicare for All” legislation in Congress. The proposal was said to be in response to a failed business model of the insurance industry where employers change the insurance of their employees and somehow, they get delayed health services or get fired and lose their benefits.

Last Tuesday, UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann showed distaste for Medicare for All during a call with investors, alleging that the legislation would destabilize the nation’s health system. Insurance stock sell-off intensified afterward, reported CommonDreams.Org.

According to a Bloomberg report, hospital and insurance stocks have continued to drop on Wednesday resulting in a loss of $28 billion in market value for health companies in the United States alone. This was a response to Senator Sanders and the Democrats’ Medicare for All legislation where a single-payer health care insurance system could become a reality.

According to the University of California, Berkeley professor and economist Robert Reich, the shrink in insurance shares signified that the legislation may be implemented soon which marks the end of for-profit health insurance’s business model. The health care policy prior to the legislation allegedly showed that insurance companies sought to provide more services to healthy people and avoided sick people to minimize insurance companies’ health expenses and increase their profitability.

Last Monday morning, Sanders revealed during a Fox News town hall conference that the Medicare for All legislation allows employees to retain their health insurance policies while they are still employed and even when they lose or quit their jobs. He said that employers can even change their workers’ insurance without prior notice and this actually causes instability in the health care system and delays in health services.

As per a report by NPR, Susan who has been working for 17 years with an employer had no paycheck deduction for health insurance before her employer switched her to high-deductible insurance plans. She revealed that she carried a genetic mutation that increased her risk of developing breast cancer to 72 percent. Thus, she opted for increased cancer screenings where she had to undergo an annual mammogram and annual MRI scan.

Her out-of-pocket cost for the MRI was more than $2,000 while her mammogram cost $1,088 which was reduced to $191 after she appealed the charges. Susan said the high bill forced her to put off further annual screenings until she has paid off her bills from the checkups. Thus, she suffered from a delay in cancer detection and treatment due to the cost of following the high-deductible insurance plan.

A study conducted by Health Affairs showed that employers of 316,224 women switched their workers’ insurance coverage from low-deductible health plans to high-deductible health plans between 2004 to 2014. Women with low incomes who had high-deductible insurance plans like Susan incurred delays in breast cancer detection and treatment.

According to J. Frank Wharam, in some cases, those delays may lead to poorer health outcomes. As per Popular Medicine, these delays and the high costs were made as the bases for implementing the Medicare for All legislation since the prior model resulted in poor, unequal and delayed health care services by insurance companies to patients.