The Joe Biden administration’s recent entrenchment and expansion of the Donald Trump administration’s efforts to privatize Medicare is helping a shadowy set of big-business beneficiaries: private equity firms and major health care companies, including one that previously employed the government official overseeing the privatization plan, a new analysis from us shows.
In April last year, the Biden administration contracted with fifty-three third-party companies to mandate privatized health care plans through Medicare. The resulting health care options are effectively Medicare Advantage plans, or private coverage offered through the national health insurance program for seniors and people with disabilities — but with one wrinkle: Patients are being assigned to these new plans without their consent.
The fifty-three participating companies — called “direct contracting entities,” or DCEs — are allowed to offer benefits beyond traditional Medicare, like gym membership coverage. But as for-profit businesses that receive a set payment from Medicare no matter how much care they approve, these DCEs are incentivized to limit the care that patients receive, especially when they are very sick. The first DCEs were launched by President Donald Trump in 2019, and so far, at least 350,000 seniors have already been moved onto these privatized Medicare plans.
Now, a new analysis by us of the fifty-three DCEs found additional cause for concern: fifteen of these entities, or slightly more than a quarter, are backed by private equity firms, which are known for extracting profits at the expense of workers, the environment, and even their own pension fund investors. The firms include big-name firms like the Carlyle Group, General Atlantic, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, Benchmark Capital, and Warburg Pincus. What’s more, another fifteen DCEs are linked to big health care companies — including one with a direct connection to the Biden appointee in charge of the new privatized Medicare scheme.
Wall Street’s encroachment into Medicare is the latest example of private equity’s aggressive expansion into health care, which has ranged from hospitals to ER doctor groups. In 2021, private equity managers deployed $172 billion in capital in the health care sector — nearly four times the total budget of the National Institutes of Health.
Biden himself has lambasted the for-profit industry’s takeover of eldercare services, noting during his State of the Union address in March: “As Wall Street firms take over more nursing homes, quality in those homes has gone down and costs have gone up. That ends on my watch.”
Biden apparently doesn’t have the same concerns about Wall Street’s growing role in Medicare — a development that could lead to higher medical bills for patients. The financial industry has already demonstrated its willingness to take a forceful approach …….