Health Care Debates

October 18, 2019 • Volume 29, Issue 37
Should the federal government's role expand?
By Kerry Dooley Young


Concerns about how Americans pay for medical care likely will be a dominant theme in the 2020 elections and beyond. While the federal Medicare program provides coverage for those age 65 and older, other Americans worry they will be unable to afford treatment for serious illnesses, even if they have private insurance. As stories spread about high medical costs bankrupting families, lawmakers and policy experts are debating whether the federal government, already the nation's largest purchaser of health care, should expand its role. There is bipartisan interest in finding ways to lower prescription drug costs and protect patients against unexpectedly high hospital charges. But the two parties divide over proposals by Democratic presidential candidates for increased government control, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders' call to replace private insurance with a single-payer plan. Some Democrats suggest more limited approaches, such as creating a public option to compete with private insurers. Republicans defend private insurance, saying it is the most effective way to manage costs.

Laura Marston of Washington (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Jorge Ribas)
Laura Marston of Washington, D.C., holds a vial of Humalog, a type of insulin that she takes for her Type 1 diabetes. In the two decades since she received her diagnosis, Humalog's price has risen from $21 per vial to a minimum of $137.35. Soaring drug prices are fueling demands for greater government involvement in health care. (Getty Images/The Washington Post/Jorge Ribas)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Health Insurance
Oct. 23, 2020  The U.S. Health Insurance System
Oct. 18, 2019  Health Care Debates
Sep. 21, 2012  Assessing the New Health Care Law
Jun. 11, 2010  Health-Care Reform Updated
Aug. 28, 2009  Health-Care Reform
Mar. 30, 2007  Universal Coverage
Jun. 14, 2002  Covering the Uninsured
Apr. 16, 1999  Managing Managed Care
Apr. 12, 1996  Managed Care
Mar. 17, 1995  Primary Care
Nov. 23, 1990  Setting Limits on Medical Care
Oct. 14, 1988  The Failure to Contain Medical Costs
Aug. 10, 1984  Health Care: Pressure for Change
Apr. 08, 1983  Rising Cost of Health Care
Jan. 28, 1977  Controlling Health Costs
Aug. 09, 1974  Health Maintenance Organizations
Jun. 13, 1973  Health Care in Britain and America
Jan. 18, 1970  Future of Health Insurance
Jun. 20, 1962  Health Care Plans and Medical Practice
May 28, 1958  Health Insurance Costs
Feb. 17, 1954  Government Aid for Health Plans
Nov. 22, 1949  Compensation for Disability
Aug. 30, 1946  Public Medical Care
Jan. 25, 1944  Medical Insurance
Sep. 16, 1938  Health Insurance in Foreign Countries
Mar. 06, 1937  Toward Health Insurance
Jul. 09, 1934  Sickness Insurance and Group Hospitalization
Congress Actions
Consumer Behavior
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
General Social Trends
Health Insurance and Managed Care
Insurance Industry
Lobbying and Special Interests
Medicaid and Medicare
Medicaid and Medicare
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency