National View: Is the time right for Medicare for all? With government in charge, it'd be 'misery for all'
For more than a century, Democrats have dreamed of nationalizing America's health care system, but they have never been closer than they are now to enacting their single-payer fantasy.
Dozens of Democrats in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House have signed onto Sen. Bernie Sanders' Medicare for all plan over the past year, and support for the program among Democrats appears to be growing.
Although flowery promises about providing high-quality health care to all Americans sound nice, the truth is Medicare for all would be a nightmare for tens of millions of families.
First, Medicare for all would push the U.S. even further over the fiscal cliff and put the country at grave risk of being unable to pay its existing obligations without printing trillions more dollars. According to a study by the Mercatus Center, Medicare for all "would add approximately $32.6 trillion to federal budget commitments during the first 10 years of its implementation (2022—2031)."
Even worse, the study's authors said their "estimates are conservative because they assume the legislation achieves its sponsors' goals of dramatically reducing payments to health providers, in addition to substantially reducing drug prices and administrative costs." In other words, the $32.6 trillion figure is pie-in-the-sky. More realistically, Medicare for all would cost trillions more than Mercatus' estimates.
Paying for this outrageously expensive program would require a monumental tax increase, one of the largest in American history. The Mercatus report estimates, "A doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan."
A primary reason the economy is now experiencing unprecedented growth is because Republicans promised and passed tax reform and reduced the size and power of the federal government. Rolling back those improvements by doubling tax rates would likely trigger an economic disaster that would make the recession of 2008-09 look like the Roaring '20s.
In addition to causing economic chaos, Medicare for all would reduce the quality of health care services for millions of Americans. Economics and common sense dictate that if the government were to artificially increase health care demand, by providing everyone with health insurance, without increasing health care supply, shortages and rationing would be inevitable. This is precisely what's occurring in Canada, which implemented its single-payer system in 1984.
Today, the Canadian system is overwrought with long wait times and a host of other problems. Indeed, wait times in Canada are so egregious that "1,040,791 patients who waited for medically necessary treatment last year each lost $1,822 (on average) due to work time lost," according to the Canada-based Fraser Institute.
In some cases, Canadians are forced to wait months to receive care. The Fraser Institute notes the average wait time for patients needing "medically necessary elective orthopaedic surgery" is an astounding 41.7 weeks, about 10 months.
Besides excruciating wait times, what else can Americans expect to endure if Medicare for all becomes a reality? One of the most significant problems undoubtedly would be that innovative procedures and practices would become much harder to develop. Thousands of doctors likely would choose to retire early because provider payments would need to be slashed by at least 40 percent.
The middle class would be hit especially hard in a Medicare-for-all system, because many lower-income people who don't pay much in taxes but are now responsible for paying for their health insurance suddenly would be free from that burden, pushing it onto middle-income families.
It would become much more difficult to develop new prescription drugs as well. Since U.S. drug companies would be paid much lower reimbursement rates for their medications, their research and development departments likely would shrink faster than their profit margins in a Medicare-for-all scheme. Some drugmakers might even choose to leave the United States in favor of a country with a more favorable model.
The U.S. health care system is far from perfect, but real progress will only occur once we get government out of health care. Increasing government's role in this industry would only make matters worse. After all, if government can't effectively run the Postal Service, VA hospital system, DMVs, or Amtrak, why would we trust it with our multibillion-dollar health care industry?
Chris Talgo is an editor at the Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Ill. He wrote this originally for InsideSources.com.