Health care dominated the two Democratic presidential debates last week. Among the most dramatic moments was when moderator Lester Holt asked the candidates to raise their hands if they supported outlawing private insurance and forcing everyone onto a new government-run, “Medicare-for-all” plan.
During each debate, only two candidates — Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Bill de Blasio on night one, and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris on night two — said they would. Hours later, Harris claimed she didn’t understand the question and walked back her support.
Total health expenditures under a Medicare for All plan that provides comprehensive coverage and long-term care benefits would be $3.89 trillion in 2019 (assuming such a plan was in place for all of the year), or a 1.8 percent increase relative to expenditures under current law. This estimate accounts for a variety of factors including increased demand for health services, changes in payment and prices, and lower administrative costs. We also include a supply constraint that results in unmet demand equal to 50 percent of the new demand. If there were no supply constraint, we estimate that total health expenditures would increase by 9.8 percent to $4.20 trillion.
Single-payer health care is a dividing line in the race, separating Democrats who want to replace the private insurance system from those who favor improving it. Some candidates — like Bernie Sanders and Michael Bennet — picked a clear side. Others, like Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, took a middle path.
Rising support for socialism in the United States comes at a time when politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., promise a great many “free” services, to be provided or guaranteed by the government.
Supporters often point to nations with large social programs, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Scandinavian states, particularly when it comes to health care.
Never mind that these are not true socialist countries, but highly taxed market economies with large welfare states. That aside, they do offer a government-guaranteed health service that many in America wish to emulate.
Medicare for All has become a litmus test in the Democratic Party, but some leaders — including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former vice president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden — are wary of the political consequences of stripping private insurance from the 180 million people enrolled in job-based coverage. They are pushing a “public option” as a less threatening alternative.
A public option is sold as less disruptive than Medicare for All but it would have similar results, and a similar destination. If enacted, private insurance would wither, competition would decline, innovation would slow, and the costs of health coverage would be hidden inside ever-rising tax bills.
The most recent KFF Health Tracking Poll finds majorities across partisans think taxes for most people would increase under a national health plan, sometimes called Medicare-for-all (78 percent), and about half (53 percent) think private health insurance companies would no longer be the primary way Americans would get health coverage under such a plan.
Wednesday in Congress, the Democrat Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing titled “Pathways to Universal Healthcare Coverage.” Democrats on the Committee will no doubt fill the committee room with lofty promises but don’t be deceived: in reality, Democrat slogans like “Medicare-for-all” come with a bitter pill to swallow: socialized medicine in America.
Enacting punitive patient access restrictions, economy-crushing taxes, and massive deficit spending has never improved patients ability to get a timely diagnosis and effective treatments in moments of need.
In one case, an insurer prevented a woman from getting a CT scan her doctor ordered. In another, a mother couldn’t afford the full regimen of special bags needed to clear her cancer-stricken daughter’s lungs. In a third case, a woman lost her health insurance and could not afford end-of-life chemotherapy.
These examples come from National Nurses United, the country’s largest nurses’ union. To prevent further incidents like these, the union favors a universal, government-run health care system. A lead editorial in the New York Times last week appeared to endorse their thinking.
A recent study published in Health Affairs reached a controversial conclusion, that the United States should adopt socialist price schemes to reduce drug prices.
The study, “Using External Reference Pricing In Medicare Part D To Reduce Drug Price Differentials With Other Countries” argues that by matching prices with those in other countries, the United States can reduce spending in Medicare.
The proposal is not new, but it is dangerous.
Last year I published a study with the Mercatus Center projecting that enacting Medicare for All (M4A) would add at least $32.6 trillion to federal budget costs over the first 10 years. After the study was published, some advocates misattributed a finding to it, specifically that M4A would lower national healthcare costs by $2 trillion over that same time period. This misattribution has since been repeated in various press reports. Multiple fact-checking sites have pointed out that the study contains no such finding, as did a follow-up piece I published with e21 last year. However, because the mistake continues to appear occasionally, this article provides additional detail about how and why it is wrong.