Democrat 2020 presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled a healthcare plan Friday to expand healthcare access to rural areas despite some studies cautioning that a public option could close nearly half of rural hospitals.
Buttigieg revealed his rural healthcare plan, which would work alongside his public option plan, known as “Medicare for All Who Want It,” as well as increasing federal subsidies for health insurance plans sold through the Obamacare exchanges. The Indiana mayor hopes to increase student loan forgiveness and propose increased Medicare reimbursement rates for healthcare providers in rural America.
“We need to lift rural communities up as places of opportunity, both for this generation and future ones. That work begins with securing the health of all rural residents,” Buttigieg said in a statement Friday.
Buttigieg’s plan would create a public option, which would offer Americans a form of Medicare through the Obamacare exchanges for any patient to purchase. His plan hopes to contrast with the more progressive Democrats’ Medicare for All.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) have proposed a public option as part of their rural healthcare plan.
Buttigieg’s rural healthcare plan rollout arises as Navigant Consulting released a study that found that “adding a government-run insurance plan could decimate rural hospitals.”
The analysis said that more than half of rural hospitals could close with the enactment of a public option due to the lower Medicare reimbursement rates. To prevent rural hospitals from closing, Buttigieg’s plan would have to raise Medicare reimbursement rates between 40 to 60 percent, which could cost between $4 and $25 billion.
Lauren Crawford Shaver, the executive director of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, said that despite many Democrats’ attempts to portray the public option “as a much more moderate alternative to ‘Medicare for all,’ the truth is the public option would be also damaging, potentially putting the health and well-being of our rural communities at risk.”