Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., center, accompanied by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, to unveil their Medicare for All legislation to reform health care. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
As the midterm elections near, the push from the left for Medicare for All continues to gain momentum. But it’s a proposal that is generating public enthusiasm as more than 80 percent of Americans now claim cost of health care treatments make quality care unaffordable, according to the Pew Research Center.
But the cost of government-run medicine is what Charles Blahous of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University tells us we should be paying attention to. Last month he released “The Costs of a National Single-Payer Healthcare System,” which found that Medicare for All legislation proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) would cost taxpayers $32.6 trillion over its first 10 years.
That’s trillion with a “T.”
Amazingly, some on the left hailed this as a victory with Sen. Sanders citing the study and asserting Medicare for All will lead to a $2 trillion savings
The problem: that’s just not true.
In fact, the only way it could be true is if hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers accept significantly lower reimbursement and payments for services – as Blahous told the Washington Examiner this week.
But this debate brings us to a larger question of why Medicare for All would be so bad for patients, doctors, and medicine in general. As Blahous alludes, the move toward socialized medicine is dependent on a move toward rationed care. And it’s not hard to imagine why. Just this week, we saw reports that children with disabilities in England have been waiting for more than four months to receive a wheel chair from the National Health Service (NHS).
What’s worrisome is that Americans don’t have to adopt Medicare for All to begin experiencing this kind of rationed care. CVS Health has initiated a program that allows plans to “exclude any drug” launched above a certain cost threshold using what’s known as “quality-adjusted life years” (QALY). Though wrapped in language about cost effectiveness, this threshold has been arbitrarily decided by CVS and, worse, the quality of life measure is taken from a so-called independent organization, the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), whose algorithms are increasingly dictating whose lives are valuable enough for government to cover (or not cover). Slowly Americans are slipping toward socialized healthcare with patients losing access to potentially lifesaving medications and treatments.
Of course, many in the Conservative space have voiced concerns about the growing calls for greater government interference in healthcare. Pacific Research Institute President Sally Pipes has repeatedly explained how healthcare does not “magically become free” and how the Sanders Medicare for All proposal would have sweeping, detrimental effects on the American economy and jobs beyond increasing taxes and limiting choice for patients.
Our healthcare system needs substantial reforms to bring costs under control. But a Medicare for All system isn’t the answer. As in the rest of our economy, free market forces – competition, transparency and accountability– will ultimately allow us to create a system in which quality care is more affordable and accessible to all.