Reject myths and lies favoring government control of health
The single-payer path inevitably leads to rationing.
A few weeks ago, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation that would, over five years, outlaw private insurance and establish a single-payer U.S. health-care system. He did so at a press conference that included 15 co-sponsors, including several possible 2020 presidential aspirants.
And while not surprising to see the pitch in light of his pronouncements on the campaign trail, it is no less ironic given the following quote from an old interview by none other than Sanders: “[I]f you were to expand Medicaid to everyone, if you were to give everyone a Medicaid card, we would be spending such an astronomical sum of money that we would bankrupt the nation.”
That was a younger Bernie Sanders. One might say a more logical Bernie Sanders. It’s difficult on most good days to cut through all the obfuscation masquerading as policy. With that in mind, let’s dispel with some of the most heavily trafficked myths, misleading conclusions and outright lies being perpetrated in promotion of total government control of our entire health-care system.
Myth 1: Health care is a right that government must uphold. Providing health care is a process involving personnel and facilities (schools, doctors, nurses, hospitals, equipment). By this very fact, health care is the antithesis of a right. Blindly adhering to this talking point makes “total coverage” the benchmark of success. When the government is the provider, it has the power to withhold. That is the ugly reality. Are you ready to have your child’s lung transplant denied by a government bureaucrat because of a diversity goal? That’s the path we’re on.
Myth 2: Every other industrialized nation ensures health care for its citizens. Providing a government bureaucracy by no means ensures receiving health care. The United Kingdom possesses a single-payer system. The headline of an article in the Aug. 11 issue of the London Times tells all we need to know about how that system functions: “Four Million Wait for Surgery as NHS Warns of Winter Crisis.” The single-payer path inevitably leads to rationing — just ask the 9 million U.S. veterans struggling with the VA system their opinion of socialized health care. Are we really ready to accept the consequences of that system for 325 million patients?
Myth 3: The free market doesn’t work in health care. This is a complete falsehood. There exist pockets of more market-based health care — cosmetic and dental care, for example. Both have far more market-based pricing and payment systems than traditional lines of service, and both have been successful in their approaches.
Myth 4: We can pay for it. Sanders didn’t offer a funding mechanism for his proposal, and with good reason. As he clearly stated 30 years ago, it would bankrupt the nation. California recently priced a statewide single-payer system – and the tab came in at $400 billion per year. To put that in context, the entire 2016 budget for the state of California was $266 billion. That’s right, single payer would come close to doubling the entire state budget — and therefore the burden on taxpayers.
Myth 5: We can trust the government with our health care. Really? Please recall the horror and disgust we rightfully felt at the treatment our veterans were receiving from the VA in 2014, when our bravest were being left to die not at the hands of the enemy, but at the hands of a government health-care bureaucracy.
The United States possesses the human capital — in expertise, innovation and investment — to move in a market-oriented direction that can offer exceptional health care to our citizens. That path requires difficult discussions about the role of regulations, tax treatment, and cronyism in our health-care system. Regardless of one’s political persuasion, we should all come together to forcefully reject the notion that Washington, D.C., is the best place to entrust something as important as our health-care decisions.
Sal Nuzzo serves as The James Madison Institute’s vice president of policy.