Former vice president Joe Biden distinguished himself from other candidates in the most recent Democratic presidential debate by opposing Medicare-for-All, mainly by expressing concerns about cost. In doing so, Biden echoed Republicans’ favorite argument against single-payer health care: “How will they pay for it?”
Still, Republicans and Joe Biden are making a huge mistake by focusing on cost. The implication is that government-run health care would be a good thing—a wonderful thing!—if only we could afford it. The important reality is that (in addition to runaway costs that would necessitate higher taxes, even on middle-income people) Medicare for All stinks for many other reasons. Here are just ten.
1. Ruinous to Health-Care Quality
Medicare for All will hurt the quality of health care in America. Sen. Bernie Sanders and other M4A advocates rely on misleading international comparisons that make the quality of U.S. health care look bad. In reality, Americans have access to world-class health care, especially the Americans with private insurance. But we can kiss that goodbye under M4A.
2. Medicare For All Will Not Help the Uninsured
Medicare for All will not help the uninsured. Just remember, the last expansion of government health insurance was the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, the program for low-income people. As a study in the New England Journal of Medicine said, “Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements [compared to being uninsured] in measured physical health outcomes in the first two years.”
3. It Will Make Wait Times Worse
Medicare for All will make wait times for care longer. In other countries with socialized medical systems, patients must wait longer, on average, to see doctors and get procedures than Americans do. After four weeks, 70 percent of Americans have seen a specialist, while only 40 percent of Canadians have.
4. M4A Will Swamp Emergency Rooms
Medicare for All will swamp emergency rooms. Probably because they can’t get timely doctor appointments, Canadians use hospital emergency departments much more than Americans do—and even there, they wait longer, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
5. It Will End Private Health Insurance
Medicare for All will end private insurance options, including employer-provided insurance plans. It says it right there in the name: Medicare “for All.” As Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation, has said, “As a practical matter, Senator Sanders’ Medicare for all bill would mean the end of private health insurance. Employer health benefits would no longer exist, and private insurance would be prohibited from duplicating the coverage under Medicare.”
6. It Will Rob the Neediest People
Medicare for All will stretch Medicare and rob resources from those who truly need a safety net. Today the United States has health-care safety-net programs for veterans, seniors, and low-income people, particularly low-income pregnant women, children, and people with disabilities. Opening these programs to everyone would make it harder for vulnerable patients to see doctors. One-fifth of doctors already turn away new Medicare patients, and it’s even worse in Medicaid, Centers for Disease Control data show.
7. Medicare For All Will Reduce Medical Innovation
Medicare for All will reduce medical innovation. CMS Administrator Seema Verma calls M4A “the greatest threat to innovation in health care” probably because she’s seen how Medicare, with all its good intentions, has slowed medical innovations that could have helped the elderly.
8. It Will Worsen the Culture War
Medicare for All will worsen the culture war. If you like political debates about birth control, abortion, physician-assisted suicide, vaccines, or transgender surgery, you’re going to love Medicare for All!
9. Gets Government Up In Your Grill
Medicare for All will insert government into other personal choices. Even what we eat becomes government’s business as soon as taxpayers are primarily responsible for our health-care bills. (Remember the “Broccoli Mandate?”) And that’s not all. Just Google “Social Determinants of Health” to learn how health care is really the bridge by which government could control, well, anything.
10. M4A Actually Devalues Lives
Medicare for All will devalue lives that aren’t useful to the government. While it seems unthinkable that a society would put able-bodied workers (read: taxpayers) ahead of children and the elderly (budget liabilities), this is the incentive that socialized medicine creates. Just as water flows downhill, bad incentives eventually erode government policy to serve… government.
Of course, policymakers should continue to talk about how expensive Medicare for All is. A $32-trillion price tag is concerning. But they should take care to emphasize that, even if we had the tax dollars necessary to fund it, those dollars aren’t the greatest cost of socialized medicine.