Earlier this month, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., re-introduced a bill that would establish Medicare for All. It’s at least the fifth time over the last decade he’s tried to advance legislation that would abolish private health insurance and replace it with a single government health plan.
His new bill is the most extreme vision for socialized medicine in the developed world — with far more government control than the systems in Europe and Canada that progressives tend to pine for.
And given how consistently government-run health care has produced needless deaths and suffering abroad, just imagine the atrocities that Sanders’ proposal would inflict on people here in the United States.
More than any other American politician, Sanders has turned Medicare for All from a fringe idea into a mainstream position — and in a remarkably short period of time. It was just nine years ago that his American Health Security Act — an ideological ancestor of his current bill — failed to attract even a single Senate co-sponsor.
Fourteen of his colleagues have signed onto this year’s version.
Sanders has pulled off this feat in part by framing his plan as commonsense, even moderate. As he often puts it, America is “the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its citizens.”
Even the slogan he has popularized — “Medicare for All” — makes his plan sound like an expanded version of a program that will celebrate its 57th birthday this July 31.
But these rhetorical strategies conceal a radical proposal that most Americans don’t support, once they grasp the details.
Medicare for All isn’t merely a more inclusive version of Medicare. Seniors routinely purchase private health plans to supplement the conventional government-run plan. More than four in 10 seniors choose privately administered Medicare Advantage plans.
Medicare for All would outlaw private insurance. That’s not a prospect most Americans would welcome — even those who claim to support Medicare for All. A 2020 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 56% of Americans back the idea. When told that the proposal would eliminate private coverage, support dropped to 37%.
The claim that Medicare for All would simply bring the U.S. healthcare system in line with the norm among developed countries is wrong, too.
For starters, healthcare spending in places like Finland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Norway is considerably higher than under America’s more market-based healthcare system, according to the latest figures from the World Bank.
Canada bans private coverage for anything deemed “medically necessary.” But our northern neighbor’s system does not cover dental care and prescription drugs. Canadian leftists have tried to add coverage for them. But the price tag has been too steep.
Sanders, of course, plans to spare no expense and have U.S. taxpayers cover everything but cosmetic surgery under Medicare for All.
Under government-run systems in Sweden and the United Kingdom, patients are free to purchase supplemental private coverage which enables them to access care more quickly. Medicare for All, of course, bans private coverage.
Many people abroad opt for private coverage because the public systems fail to provide care in a timely manner. In a new book, Britain’s former Secretary of Health, Jeremy Hunt, describes his country’s National Health Service as a “rogue system” in which avoidable death was all too common and medical incompetence and misconduct were routinely covered up.
Sanders’ narrative has no place for these inconvenient facts.
The truth is that Medicare for All is a more extreme version of an approach to health care that fails people all over the world. American patients are fortunate that Sanders’ repeated bids for Medicare for All have never made it out of the Senate. They should hope that this one dies there, too.