Next month, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will be back grandstanding at yet another hearing on “Medicare For All.” He’s promised to introduce a bill establishing a single-payer healthcare system “soon.” It would be the third time he’s done so since 2017.
Sanders’s vision of a government takeover of the country’s health insurance system is too much for even Democrats to support. Working people don’t want his one-size-fits-all prescription for American health care.
Americans stop supporting Medicare for All as soon as they hear about its hefty cost and how much it would disrupt their care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of Americans claim to support a universal healthcare system. But that figure drops to 37% when respondents learn it will raise taxes and eliminate their private insurance. It drops to 26% when people learn they can expect delays in receiving treatment.
It’s not just the rich who will be picking up the tab for single-payer. Doubling the rate in the highest income tax bracket and the corporate tax rate would cover just 40% of the cost of Medicare for All, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
A single-payer system proposed in California earlier this year would have required more than $162 billion in new taxes, including payroll taxes on employees who make more than $49,900. The total cost of that proposed system, according to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, could run between $494 billions and $552 billion a year.
In other words, middle- and working-class Americans would have to cover the majority of the cost of single-payer health care.
That’s exactly what happens in other countries with similar systems. In my native Canada, the lowest income tax bracket pays a 15% rate, compared to 10% in the United States. The average Canadian family of four pays more than $15,000 each year in taxes just to cover the cost of government health care.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service costs each English household around 5,785 pounds — a little over $7,900 — in taxes each year. That per-household cost has increased more than 75 percent since 2000.
Those significant tax burdens just purchase access to long waits and poor-quality care. Over 6 million Britons were on waiting lists for surgery as of January 2022 — the highest number since the NHS began keeping records in August 2007. That’s equivalent to one in nine people in England.
Even before COVID-19 overwhelmed the British healthcare system, patients had trouble accessing care. In 2019, about 15% of emergency room patients had to wait four hours or longer for treatment.
Canadians, meanwhile, wait a median 25.6 weeks between referral by a general practitioner and treatment by a specialist.
Our northern neighbors also face median waits of more than five weeks for a CT scan and more than two and a half months for an MRI. Perhaps that’s to be expected, considering there were just 14 CT scanners and 10 MRI machines per million people in Canada as of 2019 — compared to 42 CT scanners and 40 MRI machines per million people in the United States.
Long waits and subpar care can be a death sentence. I know firsthand.
Earlier this year, my otherwise healthy godson experienced chest pains and went to a Vancouver emergency room. Doctors gave him an electrocardiogram and chest x-ray but opted not to do an echocardiogram or CT scan. They sent him home with some pills and told him to relax. The ER was crowded, they had other patients to get to, and CT scans are notoriously difficult to get in Canada.
The next morning, he was found dead in his condominium. The autopsy showed a torn aorta, which could have been easily detected with a CT scan.
Sen. Sanders has certainly been the beneficiary of wait-free care in the United States. In 2019, he underwent an angioplasty for a blocked artery. He might not have been so lucky if he’d been in Canada. According to research from the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think tank, the median wait time for the same procedure can be anywhere from three weeks to 12 weeks after making an appointment with a specialist.
Americans deserve high-quality, affordable, transparent, and immediate care. Medicare for All would deliver the opposite.