I watched the Democratic presidential candidate debates last week with great dismay, as the contenders and the pretenders sought to hand out more freebies than their fellows with nary a thought of how to pay for any of it. One particular promise fraught with pernicious fiscal peril has to do with the single-payer, Medicare for All proposal that would replace all private insurance plans. Why?
First, Medicare is, for all practical purposes, a catastrophic insurance policy that we are forced to buy by law. The benefits of Medicare, apart from the supplemental plans “A through J,” are insufficient for most people. Yet, these completely irresponsible politicians gloss over this point as they propose to eliminate all private insurance, which, by definition, would eliminate these supplemental plans. The point here is that most Americans on Medicare find it necessary to buy supplemental insurance to pay for their ordinary expenses not covered by Medicare, and there is no reason to believe that will change any time soon.
Point No. 2, Medicare is broke. It is expected to become insolvent in just seven years, as the plan is spending billions more than it is taking in. Within 10 years, the plan will need to pay out over a trillion dollars per year – money we don’t have. Putting everyone on Medicare would require the infusion of tens of trillions more. This is akin to the Titanic taking on more passengers after it hit the iceberg.
The third point was not lost on but one Democratic candidate, John Delaney, who revealed one of Medicare’s dirty little secrets. How does the plan make health care “affordable”? By severely underpaying doctors, hospitals and other caregivers. To be precise, Medicare is notorious for paying pennies on the dollar. The bottom line? If every American was on Medicare, every single hospital in this country would go bankrupt, and most doctors would close their practices due to an aversion to working for free – or worse yet, working at a loss.
Finally, there is the point that having an insurance card in your wallet doesn’t assure adequate and timely access to medical care. There are already a number of physicians who won’t take Medicare patients due to the aforementioned pattern of underpayment. Adding millions of people to the rolls of this version of socialized medicine will trigger another problem in the form of rationing by delay. That is, there will be more people looking for services than our health care system can handle. People will have no choice but to wait, for what choice will they have? It would be of no use to go to Canada, because Canadians are coming here to avoid terminally long waits in that country, as they preceded us down this road of socialized medicine.
If you want an example of a single-payer, government-run health care program in America, consider our Veterans Health Administration. Terminal delays were covered up by fraudulent record keeping, resulting in the death of veterans who had managed to survive in the service, only to die in our failure to serve them.