Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is a magician. Almost single-handedly, he has moved “Medicare-for-all” – his plan to provide free, government-run health care to every American – from the political fringe to the center of Democratic Party politics.
Fourteen senators – including rival presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand – have co-sponsored his proposal. On April 30, the House Rules Committee held a landmark hearing on Medicare-for-all.
Many people like this promise of a free lunch. Fifty-six percent of Americans say they support Medicare-for-all, a jump of 16 percentage points from two decades ago.
That support vanishes once people learn the truth about single-payer health care. For example, just 37 percent of Americans support the idea after being told it would require people to pay more in taxes. Nearly six in ten oppose Medicare-for-all after learning it would eliminate private insurance.
That doesn’t bode well for Sanders. His 2017 Medicare-for-all bill would have cost $32 trillion over 10 years, according to an analysis from the Mercatus Center. Not even doubling all federal income and corporate income tax receipts would cover that tab.
He added coverage of long-term care to the version he introduced in April. So the latest price tag will be even higher.
In other words, the savings Sanders promises are an illusion.
The job losses Medicare-for-all would engender, though, are clear as day. The bill envisions paying hospitals and doctors at Medicare’s current rates, which are about 40 percent less than those paid by private insurance. Reimbursement cuts of that magnitude would wipe out up to 1.5 million jobs at hospitals alone, according to a recent paper published in JAMA, a medical journal. Lower pay for doctors would also ensure that our nation’s best and brightest young people shun careers in medicine.
Meanwhile, outlawing private insurance would put health plans, and the people employed by them, out of work. Jayapal freely admits her bill would “displace” about a million people in the private insurance sector.
Finally, guaranteeing everyone coverage via Medicare-for-all is not the same as guaranteeing them care.
Consider the plight of patients in the United Kingdom’s single-payer National Health Service. In March, only 86.6 percent of patients at emergency departments in England were seen within four hours. That’s well below the target of 95 percent, which hasn’t been met since July 2015.
Cancer patients also face dangerously long waits. In February, nearly one-quarter of patients did not start treatment within two months of being referred by a general practitioner.More than 30 percent of lung cancer patients did not begin treatment within that time.
Unsurprisingly, U.S. cancer patients fare better than their British peers. More than 97 percent of Americans with prostate cancer survive more than five years after diagnosis,compared to only 83 percent of people in the United Kingdom. Americans’ five-year lung cancer survival rate is twice Britain’s.
In Canada’s single-payer system, patients also must withstand long delays. In 2018, patients waited a median of 19.8 weeks to get treatment from specialists after receiving referrals from general practitioners.
Bernie the Magnificent claims he can provide all Americans top-notch health care at bargain prices. The American people shouldn’t fall for his sleight of hand.