The Democrats are desperate for an issue that they can make their own while not being viewed simply as the angry mob. They think that it is health care, but they will have a hard time selling their socialized medicine vision to the majority of Americans – that is, unless the public does not learn the inconvenient truths about this system.
Democrats, believing that shifting to the hard left is a winning formula, have embraced the once-fringe Sen. Bernie Sanders’s socialized health care plan: Medicare for All (M4A). Amazingly, it now has 16 sponsors in the Senate, some of whom are leading presidential candidates – Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren. The House version of the bill has 136 sponsors. Rep. Keith Ellison, as the lead sponsor and vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, makes it an almost certainty that it will become part of the 2020 Democratic national platform.
President Trump, in a recent USA Today opinion piece, criticized M4A, pointing out that this socialized plan is in reality Medicare for None. It is actually far worse. In the meantime, Democrats are actively employing their disinformation strategy of trying to demean the President and his opinions on health care while attempting to confuse voters by hiding the truth.
There are many reasons why socialized health care is bad for America, but here are five: harm to seniors, unsustainable costs, inability to meet the needs of patients, lack of support from the physician community, and the fact that it already exists (the troubled Veterans Affairs health care system).
Berniecare calls for redirecting the money allocated for Medicare to the new socialized plan, effectively shutting it down. If seniors expect to get the same deal in the M4A plan, they only need to look at other socialized health care systems to see how their counterparts in other countries are treated when health care is rationed. Operations such as cataract surgery, knee replacement or perhaps some cancer operations may get done, but only after clearing a long waiting list, provided that care doesn’t get denied altogether.
Some states considered socializing health care but decided not to risk financial ruin. In Vermont, Sanders’s home state, a single-payer system was approved but scrapped by the governor because of the price tag: $2.6 billion in additional taxes. Coloradans rejected the single-payer ballot initiative in 2016 by a 4:1 margin after learning that their taxes would go up by 10 percent and there would still be a $7.8 billion deficit at year 10. The Healthy California Act would replace all insurance with a single state-run system, but the bill has not made it out of committee because of the $400 billion annual price tag.
As difficult as it would be to pay for a state-run single-payer health care system, a federally run system would be disastrous. Berniecare has been estimated by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University to cost more than $32 trillion over 10 years. This is likely a gross underestimate based on historical data. In 1965 it was estimated that Medicare, which cost $3 billion that year, would not exceed $12 billion by 1990 (after correcting for inflation). The actual cost was $107 billion. And last year Medicare cost $580 billion.
The irony about socialized health care is that countries with this system are experiencing tremendous challenges with patient care and are exploring ways to move away from it, just when U.S. socialists in the Democratic party are embracing it. In a system where everything is free, there is limitless demand, unless care is rationed. In Great Britain, the waiting list to get a routine operation in the National Health Service exceeds 5 million people because of a lack of money and a critical shortage of health care personnel. In Canada, costs are controlled by limiting preventive services such as cancer screening. The average wait for an MRI is 11 weeks, 33 weeks for neurosurgery and 20 weeks for other “medically necessary” treatments.
The other way to pay for socialized health care is to reduce payments to providers. Currently, fewer than 80 percent of doctors around the country see Medicare patients, but this can be lower than 50 percent in some areas. That’s because payments can be so low that it often doesn’t cover the overhead associated with seeing some patients. Reimbursement to physicians under M4A will get worse, meaning greater difficulty in getting to see a doctor, less time with your doctor as they try to push more patients through the office, or having to settle for being seen by a physician assistant instead.
Finally, much has been reported about the VA health care system and its failures. Long waiting lists for care, patients dying while waiting to see a doctor, bureaucratic indifference and a long list of medical errors typify this government-run socialized health care system. The Trump administration has worked to improve VA health care by allowing veterans to move out of this purely socialized system and into the private sector. But historically, the socialized VA system has not worked out so well and provides a snapshot of what health care will become if under full federal control.
Socialized health care is a naïve solution to something as complex and unique as the American health care system. Improvement is urgently needed but it is not socialized health care. The left has always wanted this and now they have that vehicle, thanks to the Democratic Party. This is just another reason to deny them that opportunity.
Dr. Hal Scherz is the Chief of Urology at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta and Secretary of the Docs 4 Patient Care Foundation.