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Make sure you 'can pay for it': What health care execs think about Medicare for All

Anjalee Khemlani
Senior Reporter

Given soaring health care costs and the upcoming general election in 2020, the debate over “Medicare for All” has become nearly impossible to avoid — especially if you work in the health services field.

That dynamic was on display Thursday at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit, where top health company executives had a chance to weigh in on the proposal to expand Medicare, an idea that’s been embraced by most Democratic presidential contenders.

Just as the controversy surrounding the passage of Obamacare, some believe Medicare for All could be beneficial to their business — but others see lots of flaws and unintended consequences. Below are some of the sentiments shared by CEOs and health care providers about the possibility of an expanded Medicare system.

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier:

Kenneth Frazier headshot, as Merck pharmaceutical company Chairman of the board, president, and CEO, graphic element on gray

“I happen to think that Medicare has an important role to play in health care. I also think that the private sector has an important role to play in health care.I think at the end of the day, the U.S. medical system has its challenges, but I think its still the best medical system in the world, and I would not like to see us try to wholesale change the system by saying we’re going to give Medicare for everybody and thereby take away people’s choice.”

Kaiser Permanente CEO Brandon Tyson:

Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson participates in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at Union West on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

“There’s affordability of coverage, and there’s the affordability of care. Do we continue to focus only on the coverage side, or do we in fact really start to look at, as an industry, what the cost of care is and how we can deal with the inefficiencies of care, the wide variations of practices, known improved practices that aren’t implemented in the entire ecosystem. So those are the bigger issues that I’m worried about, rather than trying to figure out how now to take all the things we have in place for coverage already— private insurance and government sponsored programs—in which 90 percent of Americans are covered under that, blow that up, and spend the time working through that, versus really focusing on the affordability of care.”

Susan G. Komen CEO Paula Schneider:

WW International CEO Mindy Grossman, left, and Susan G. Komen CEO Paula Schneider participate in the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit at Union West on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

“You have to make sure you’re fiscally responsible and that you can pay for it. I do come from the for-profit world, before I came into the not-for-profit world so I can sort of understand both sides. I believe that there is an onus of responsibility of making sure that people can get insurance, that people can get care. We see it all the time where people are underinsured or have no insurance whatsoever, and we’re an organization that has a little bit of heft but we certainly don’t have the ability to take care of all the people out there that need help when they get a diagnosis of breast cancer.”

Weight Watchers CEO, Mindy Grossman:

“What we all want is to give people the tools so they can have access to support them if they’re in need. What we’re really trying to do on our health solutions business is really make sure that if someone—you know, we’re the number one physician-recommends program for weight loss and we need to embed that even further.”

Yahoo Finance's conference on generational opportunities, October 10, 2019.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

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