Health care has been the most-mentioned issue in Democratic advertisements in the run-up to this month’s midterm elections. Many Democrats are making Medicare for All the centerpiece of their pitch to voters.
Cearly, Democrats didn’t learn their lesson in 2010, when their previous effort at government micromanagement of the health care sector — ObamaCare — cost them their House majority.
By supporting single-payer, Democrats are doubling down. Apparently, the problem with ObamaCare wasn’t that it rendered health insurance unaffordable for millions. It’s that it didn’t inject enough government into the health care marketplace. Only a full-scale federal takeover of one-fifth of the economy will do.
That would be calamitous for patients and taxpayers.
It wasn’t long ago that Democrats saw health care as a political liability. In 2010, a mere 6% of the party’s midterm advertisements brought up ObamaCare. Some of those spots were openly critical of the policy. Yet going into this year’s vote, nearly half of the party’s ads mention health care.
ObamaCare’s Many Failures
What has changed? For starters, the public has tired of the spiraling premiums and dwindling choices available under ObamaCare. Many are now open to more radical brands of health care reform, including single-payer. Seventy percent of Americans say they support Medicare for All, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll from this summer — up from less than half before ObamaCare passed.
Democrats are attempting to cater to this polling with calls for Medicare for All. A strong majority of House Democrats now support the policy, as do many presidential hopefuls, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Voters might be enticed by the promise of “free” health care. But their enthusiasm will fade once they see the true cost of a single-payer system. A Medicare-for-All reform would cost the federal government $32.6 trillion over the program’s first decade, according to the Mercatus Center. The left-leaning Urban Institute’s estimate is similar — about $32 trillion.
Even doubling federal corporate and income tax receipts would be insufficient to cover the cost of Medicare for All. And that’s charitably assuming providers acquiesce to the payment cuts the bill envisions — 40%, relative to private insurance rates.
Medicare For All, Good Care For None
So much for “free” health care.
Eventually, the government will have to take drastic measures to rein in the cost of a new multitrillion-dollar Medicare for All entitlement. Other countries that have faced the same pressures under their government-run systems have turned to rationing.
Look at Canada’s single-payer system, where the median wait for treatment from a specialist is more than 21 weeks after referral by a general practitioner. In some specialties, delays are longer still. The median wait time for orthopedic surgery was more than 10 months in 2017, according to the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think tank.
They pay an awful lot in taxes for those waits. The average family of four spends about $13,000 in taxes just for health care.
Many Canadians opt to leave the country rather than waiting in line. In 2016, more than 63,000 Canadians sought treatment abroad.
Britain’s Health Care Blues
In the United Kingdom’s government-run health system, the National Health Service, rationing is an unfortunate fact of life, too. According to research from the Royal College of Anesthetists and University College London, the NHS cancels one in seven major surgeries on the day of the operation. Those cancellations stem in part from the shortage of hospital beds and professional health care personnel the country faces.
Another analysis found that the NHS usually provides just one-third of the recommended therapy for stroke victims. That puts patients at serious risk of disability.
It’s no wonder that the British royal family has refused to use the NHS when its members’ health has been on the line. Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and her sister Pippa Middleton have all had their children at the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London. Prince Philip similarly opted to have his hip surgery done at a private hospital.
It’s unclear whether Democrats’ embrace of single-payer will help them at the ballot box. But it’s quite clear that their planned government takeover of the U.S. health care system would cost taxpayers a fortune and deny patients high-quality care.