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Ocasio-Cortez Makes Connection Between 20% Jump in Healthcare Costs and Industry-Sponsored Spa Days for Congressional Staffers

"This is the healthcare system of 'choice' that so many politicians are committed to protecting."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) noted on Thursday, as federal data showed healthcare costs rose 20% in 2019, that congressional staffers took a luxury resort trip with healthcare lobbyists last spring, calling such perks "one of the sneaky and most corrupting aspects of lobbying." (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

After end-of-the-year reports showed healthcare costs for Americans rose an average of 20% in 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter highlighted evidence of the cozy relationship between the for-profit health insurance industry and U.S. lawmakers.

The New York Democrat noted a retreat at a luxury resort in Virginia taken last April by more than 40 senior congressional staffers where they rubbed elbows with and listened to talks given by health insurance lobbyists.

"One of the sneaky and most corrupting aspects of lobbying is to court a member's staff," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

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Staffers in attendance at the event came from both sides of the aisle and heard healthcare and pharmaceutical lobbyists' pitches for so-called "reforms" to the healthcare system—which did not include Medicare for All.

"This event wasn't about fixing the healthcare system," former health insurance executive-turned-Medicare for All advocate Wendell Potter told The Intercept at the time. "It was about protecting the healthcare industry, no matter the cost to patients, families, workers, or employers. The industry is the root cause of our healthcare crisis. A congressional staffer serious about finding solutions wouldn’t touch that retreat with a 10-foot pole."

The federal Consumer Price Index report revealing the rise in healthcare costs was released a day after CBS reported that more than half of American families are being forced to cut back on holiday spending because of expenses including medical expenses specifically.

More than 70% of respondents to a survey taken by the insurance company Aflac said it was the second year in a row that they had cut holiday costs by eliminating travel, gift-giving, or other traditions.

Many of the people surveyed faced high healthcare costs this year despite having insurance; 30% of the respondents who had visited the hospital this year reported that they had been responsible for at least $1,000 in out-of-pocket costs.

"One of the themes is medical expenses outpacing the amount of insurance people have," Shields said. "They are beyond what co-payments or deductibles will cover and that results in greater out-of-pocket costs."

Thursday's report also came two days after Gallup released a poll showing that a quarter of Americans delayed or avoided getting healthcare due to costs.

"This is the healthcare system of 'choice' that so many politicians are committed to protecting," Ocasio-Cortez said.

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