National Politics

Crapo: 782,500 Idahoans would lose employer’s insurance under Medicare for All. Is he right?

Sen. Mike Crapo

Sen. Mike Crapo explains why he is running for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.
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Sen. Mike Crapo explains why he is running for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is taking heat for statements he made online this week about ‘Medicare for all’ health insurance.

“Over 44% of Idahoans would lose employer-based health insurance under a one-size-fits-all health care system? No thanks,” he wrote Wednesday on Facebook.

His statement accompanied a graphic that claimed “782,500 people in Idaho stand to lose employer-based health insurance.”

Crapo reiterated the statement Thursday on Twitter.

What he says is technically accurate — but could be misleading.

The proposals that congressional Democrats have put forward wouldn’t do away with employer-based health insurance and leave people uninsured. The ideas Democrats are pushing would give health insurance coverage to all Americans, or allow them to opt in to a “single payer” system.

That would be a huge departure from America’s current system — so much so, that the Congressional Budget Office couldn’t give one answer when asked to figure out how much a single-payer system would cost.

“(The) nonpartisan office noted the many ways that legislators could devise such a system, outlining the cost and policy effects of a wide range of difficult choices,” the New York Times reported. “It also noted that such a system would be so different from the country’s current situation that any hard estimates would be difficult, even with all the specifics laid out.”

But, the basic concept is that health care would be paid for by taxes, instead of by health insurance premiums. (That also would apply to employers who currently pay a share of their workers’ health insurance premiums.)

Crapo did not respond to questions Thursday from the Idaho Statesman about the intent of his statement and how employers have responded to it. When asked about the timing of his statement, he referenced a congressional hearing this week.

But in an email to the Statesman, Crapo said: “A one-size-fits-all health care system would take away private health care for 782,500, or roughly 44 percent, of Idahoans. It would create longer wait times, less health care freedom, lower quality care and higher taxes. ... I am committed to working to ensure Americans have access to a market-based health care system that works to deliver affordable care for all.”

The statistic he cited is incorrect. Nearly 1 million Idahoans had “private health care,” or health insurance they get through their employer or buy for themselves, as of 2017. That’s about 57 percent of the state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, based on U.S. Census data. The remainder either had a government-based insurance or were uninsured.

Facebook, Twitter reacts to Crapo

Crapo’s claim seems to have originated from a blog post Senate Republicans published last week. The post said that under a ‘Medicare for all’ system being pushed by Democrats, “Americans will pay more to wait longer for worse care.”

It also referenced Kaiser Family Foundation data showing how many people in each state have health insurance through their jobs — as opposed to buying their own insurance or having a government health insurance plan like Medicare or Medicaid.

Idahoans responded to Crapo’s Facebook post with 411 comments — most of them challenging Crapo’s viewpoint —by Thursday afternoon.

Those who chided the senator pointed out that employer-based health insurance wouldn’t vanish and leave people with nothing. It would be replaced by government-based health insurance.

“My ‘employer-based healthcare’ is terrible compared to my wife’s Medicare,” wrote one Idahoan. “I am 100% on board with the switch.”

Others responded by saying they don’t want government-based health insurance.

“Keep up the fight Senator,” one woman wrote.

Crapo’s statement came the same day as a House hearing, during which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office director told lawmakers that changing to single-payer would be “a major undertaking,” would “involve significant changes for all participants” and that “lawmakers would need to make many decisions with complex trade-offs,” the Washington Post reported.

One Nampa resident with employer-based health insurance

Crapo’s statement also was posted the same day CNN published a valedictorian speech by a Nampa high school graduate. Elbie Seibert is heading to a prestigious university on a full-ride scholarship, despite facing many challenges at home.

One of those challenges was his father’s terminal illness.

Seibert’s father was diagnosed the day after Thanksgiving 2018 with metastatic bladder cancer. He had employer-based health insurance.

Many employer-based health insurance plans have high out-of-pocket costs that may dissuade workers from actually using the insurance. Some plans require a person to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars of their own bills before insurance takes over.

“Shortly after my father’s diagnosis, he told me that he had been urinating blood for over a month but was forced to ignore it because he could not afford a doctor’s visit,” Seibert wrote. “As a janitor with a family, he struggled to pay for his employer’s health care plan and did not have sufficient coverage for his needs. Now, he’s gone, and my family will live with that cost for the rest of our lives.”

Seibert’s father died earlier this month, just before the young man’s Columbia High School graduation.

“As I prepare to move across to country and begin the next stage of my life, I hope to use my education at Brown University to better equip me to fight for a country where health care is accessible for all Americans — no matter their financial background or employment status,” Seibert wrote. “While I may never get to hear my father laugh again or see him hug my mother, I will commit to fighting for a society where the cost of a doctor’s visit does not mean forgoing dinner or running water — a situation that my father has had to face numerous times.”

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