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Warren on Medicare for All: ‘Taxpayers Have Helped Make Insurance Companies Wildly Profitable’

WASHINGTON – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said taxpayers should demand “fair treatment” from health insurance companies in return for making them “wildly profitable” with subsides over the years.

With Obamacare fully implemented, Warren said health insurance companies will likely resist any government attempts to raise “coverage standards” any further.

“They will stamp their feet and threaten to walk away from the healthcare exchanges. My response? Give me a break. The five big publicly-traded insurance companies in this country, together, cover 125 million people and they are raking in cash – more than $17 billion in profits in the last year alone. So don’t tell me an industry that has $17 billion in profits to hand out to its investors and its executives in a single year cannot do right by the American people – just don’t tell me that,” Warren said during a recent address at the Families USA Conference.

“And as we wrestle with insurance companies to get them to treat their customers a little better, keep in mind on this that taxpayers are directly responsible for a huge proportion of those giant profits. The top insurers in the United States pull in nearly 60 percent of their total revenue from Medicare and Medicaid – that is more than $200 billion in 2016 revenues coming directly from American taxpayers and that’s not all,” she added.

Warren continued, “Through the tax code, the federal government subsidizes the cost of insurance to the tune of $260 billion a year.  Through the Affordable Care Act, over the next decade, taxpayers will contribute more than half a trillion dollars to insurance companies. Taxpayers have helped make insurance companies wildly profitable and taxpayers can ask for fair treatment in return.”

Warren said “good riddance” to insurance companies that oppose federal efforts to change the way they do business, arguing that insurers should have to comply with new rules if they want government contracts.

“If an insurer wants to bid on a Medicare Advantage contract or a state Medicaid contract, they should know that they could also be required to participate in that state’s health insurance exchanges. Don’t you think so? In other words, if they want to bid on the really juicy federal healthcare contracts, they should have to offer a basic private insurance plan for individuals as well, even if those exchange plans don’t produce quite the same juicy profits for their investors,” she said.

“And if some insurance companies really, truly are not willing to provide high-quality, affordable coverage in exchange for billions of dollars in federal subsidies and access to Medicare and Medicaid – if they really and truly want to pick up their toys and go home because a bazillion dollar in profits isn’t enough – then I say good riddance. If the insurance company walks, then we should replace their policies with public alternatives that we already know will provide better, more affordable coverage at a lower cost to taxpayers,” she added.