An Update on Single-Payer
With the mid-term elections now less than 100 days away, the siren-call for single-payer or “Medicare for All” continues. Fifty-one percent of those polled earlier this year by Kaiser support single payer, the highest number ever recorded. But as Seema Verma, Administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, warned in a recent speech: If this country adopts “Medicare for All” it will become “Medicare for None.”
My main focus these days is making the case against Sen. Bernie Sanders and the many progressive Democrats who are pushing “Medicare for All”. It is at the forefront of many campaign battles in Congress and in state races from California to New York.
Sen. Sanders began his hard push for single payer during his 2016 presidential campaign. Back then, he didn’t say how much his Medicare for All proposal would cost or how it would be paid for. The liberal Urban Institute costed it out at $32 trillion over ten years.
Last year, Sanders released another “Medicare for All” bill, which is supported by 16 Democratic senators including four presidential hopefuls—Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The Mercatus Institute’s Charles Blahous just released his analysis of Sanders’ plan—a whopping $32.6 trillion (2022-2031) over ten years after deducting any savings that may come from reduced administrative and drug costs. The full cost without any savings was $38 trillion over the decade.
The plan could not be paid for even if corporate and personal income taxes were doubled. It would expand federal taxpayers’ obligations by 10.7 percent of GDP immediately and would rise to 12.7 percent of GDP within ten years of complete implementation—over and above taxpayer obligations under the current law.
Ultimately, Americans would face long waits for care, rationed care, increased taxes, and a reduction in the number of doctors practicing medicine because they would be paid Medicare rates which are 40 percent below what they get paid for treating private patients. The best and brightest students would no longer enter medical school because the incentive would be destroyed.
The Senate is not alone in hatching single-payer plans. In the House, the “Medicare for All Caucus” was launched July 19 with 70 Democratic supporters. The co-chairs of this caucus are Pramila Jayapal (WA), Keith Ellison (MN), and Debbie Dingell (MI). Earlier in the year, 137 House Democrats supported Keith Ellison’s single-payer bill—HR 676. Democratic House candidate for New York’s 14th District this fall, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a member of Democratic Socialists of America and a Sanders protégé, is campaigning around the country with Senator Sanders on behalf of liberal Democratic candidates who support single payer. She has become the “darling of the mainstream media”. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez say, “their agenda is now Democratic mainstream.”
More Docs Supporting Single Payer
Doctors’ support of single payer is growing too. In recent polls, 56 percent of American doctors now support single payer, up from 42 percent in 2008. And medical students are rallying around single payer. Students for a National Health Program, the student single payer advocacy arm of Physicians for a National Health Program, with 1,400 members at 60 medical colleges, is committed to fighting for Medicare for All.
Meantime in Canada and the U.K….
In Canada, the Fraser Institute calculated the average wait in 2017 from seeing a primary care physician to getting treatment by a specialist was 21.2 weeks. In the think tank’s latest research study, the average Canadian family of four will pay this year $12,935 in hidden taxes for the so-called “free” health care. This is an increase of 68.5 percent since 1997, the first year that estimates were calculated.
In the U.K., the National Health Services (NHS) celebrated its 70th anniversary on July 5. There continues to be many serious problems with the NHS–very long waits, rationed care, overcrowded hospitals, acute shortages of beds, cancelled surgeries, and a shortage of overworked doctors and nurses.
Despite all this, it is messages like this one from a Mom that make my fight against government health care so very worthwhile: “I’m a Mom of a special needs child in Des Moines, Iowa and I just read (your) amazing article in Fortune . . . I just felt compelled to say something because my son’s survival depends on people like Sally and I just wanted to make sure she got this message to just keep doing what she’s doing and keep fighting with her voice, with her reasonable voice, because it is. We are in a Facebook Group with people all over the world and most of these children are born with congenital heart defects. In Canada and the U.K., these children are constantly denied heart surgery and other types of medical intervention that they can usually get here in the U.S. So, we can see that socialized medicine is obviously a really terrible idea. If socialized medicine comes here, I’m scared his future survival will be threatened.”
Sally Pipes is President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute