Private health insurance stocks 'in free fall' as Medicare for All gains momentum

Private health insurance stocks 'in free fall' as Medicare for All gains momentum
Molly Adams

With comprehensive Medicare for All legislation now introduced in both chambers of Congress and bolstered by surging grassroots support, health insurance stocks are "crumbling" as investors grow increasingly fearful that single-payer could eventually become a reality.

"Together, the shares of hospitals and insurers lost $28 billion in market value on Tuesday," Bloomberg reported. "The slide in hospital and insurance stocks continued Wednesday, wiping out billions of dollars more in market value from some of the biggest health companies in the U.S."

As Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur put it on Twitter, "Health insurance stocks are in free fall as Democrats introduce 'Medicare for All' legislation in Congress and Bernie Sanders pushes it on Fox News."

University of California, Berkeley professor and economist Robert Reich argued that tumbling insurance stocks are a "[s]ign that Medicare for All is real."

"Current free-fall in health insurance stocks (Anthem, UnitedHealth, Centene, Humana, etc.) marks beginning of end of for-profit health insurance's business model of seeking healthy people and avoiding sick people," Reich tweeted.

National Nurses United, which is organizing and building support for Medicare for All nationwide, echoed Reich, saying the fall of insurance stocks is evidence that grassroots activism is having an impact.

"Insurance industry stocks dropping as the Medicare for All movement heats up—we've got some serious people power on our hands!" the group tweeted Wednesday.

As Common Dreams reported Tuesday, the insurance stock sell-off intensified after UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann lashed out at Medicare for All during a call with investors, saying single-payer would "destabilize the nation's health system."

Medicare for All proponents begged to differ, arguing that the for-profit system—under which 30 million Americans are uninsured and tens of millions more are underinsured—is the actual source of instability and dysfunction.

"As usual, an insurance company CEO has got it backward—Medicare for All stabilizes healthcare for people... and disrupts the failed business model of the insurance industry," Michael Lighty, founding fellow of the Sanders Institute, told Common Dreams.

During a Fox News town hall Monday evening, Sanders—who unveiled Medicare for All legislation in the Senate—challenged the common insurance industry talking point that Medicare for All would "destabilize" healthcare for millions of Americans who are covered by employer-provided insurance plans.

"Millions of people, every single year, lose their health insurance. You know why? They get fired. Or They quit. And they go to another employer," said Sanders, a 2020 presidential contender.

"Every year, millions of workers wake up in the morning and their employer has changed the insurance that they have. So this is not new," the Vermont senator added. "Now what we're talking about actually is stability. That when you have a Medicare for All [program] it is there now and it will be there in the future."


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