“Medicare for All” is back. For the fifth time in the last decade-plus, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has introduced legislation that would launch a government takeover of the U.S. health insurance system. “Health care is a human right, not a privilege,” he insisted from the Senate floor May 12.
But Americans also have a right to know what Medicare for All would look like in practice — and what it would mean for their pocketbooks. They won’t like what they find out.
Sanders says it would be phased in over four years, offer an array of comprehensive benefits and require no premiums. That sales pitch is popular. A little over 50% of people say they favor Medicare for All, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Once they learn it would mean higher taxes — and not just on the rich but on the middle class — that support starts to wane. After they’re informed Medicare for All would eliminate private insurance, even fewer remain on board — 37%. Support falls to 26% after people are told they can expect delays in treatment.
It’s easy to see why Sanders sticks to slogans. The details aren’t so attractive. Remember, this isn’t a choice. Medicare for All means just that. Sanders’s proposal would cover everyone — no exceptions.
The plans people get through work, the existing Medicare program, the private Medicare Advantage plans that a growing number of seniors are choosing, even the exchange plans that millions have signed up for would be gone — and replaced by one big government-run program.
What would we be in for? Look at how Medicare for All-style systems work in Britain and my native Canada — or rather, how they don’t work.
Long waits for care are common. According to a report from the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver think tank, Canadians face a median wait of more than 25 weeks to receive treatment from a specialist following referral by a general practitioner. People in Nova Scotia have to withstand a median wait of more than a year.
In England’s National Health Service, waiting lists for treatment are at an all-time high — 6.2 million people. That includes more than 23,000 people who have been waiting more than two years.
This backlog won’t clear anytime soon. Health Secretary Sajid Javid says it’ll take until 2025 to eliminate waits of over 12 months.
As for what we can expect from Medicare for All, let’s turn to the Congressional Budget Office. Its latest study on the economic effects of single-payer plans says, “Under a single-payer system, the increase in the demand for care would exceed the increase in supply, resulting in more unmet demand.”
That’s how economists say, “You’ll be waiting for care under Medicare for All.”
All this for a program that the left-leaning Urban Institute says will increase government spending by $34 trillion over the next decade. In recent Senate testimony, the Mercatus Center’s Charles Blahous said that number could reach $38.8 trillion.
Who will pay for it all? All of us. Confiscating all the wealth of America’s billionaires would cover less than two years of the cost of Medicare for All. The average Canadian family of four pays over $15,000 annually just to finance their portion of government care. Sanders’ vision of Medicare for All is even more generous than Canada’s, so Americans can expect to face an even higher tax burden.
Don’t be fooled by worn-out sales pitches. One look under the hood tells us that Medicare for All will only take us for a ride — one we simply can’t afford.