Health

Why Medicare for All Is a Budget Buster

The plan Hillary Clinton backs is neither sustainable nor sensible

Increasingly, Americans seem to understand that when it comes to health care, the government may actually be part of the problem — not the solution.

Throughout his campaign, Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders touted a single payer system called Medicare for All as “the answer.” The Sanders plan would require $1.38 trillion in additional federal spending every year — that’s roughly 8 percent of total GDP. By comparison, the official cost estimate for Obamacare when it was passed was about $900 billion over an entire decade.

Using our taxes to pay for unlimited “free” health care would swallow the entire economy — unless it would become solvent by charging higher rates and taxes and providing fewer services.

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Hillary Clinton, who has long viewed this solution as unworkable, has now changed her position — in an effort to court Sanders supporters and shore up more of the Democratic vote. She’s announced a plan to invest in community health care centers, give Americans in every state the choice of a “public option” insurance plan — a plan that President Obama himself touted on Monday in an article for JAMA — and allow those 55 and older the option of opting into Medicare.

The tax hikes required to pay for all this new spending would be enormous, and truly regressive — hitting the middle class the hardest. It also would add new taxes on employers and an additional 2.2 percent flat tax on virtually all income beyond the standard deduction (currently $28,800 for a family of four).

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Need we remind you — higher taxes throughout history have led to revolutions, not economic prosperity.

Medicare is already hopelessly insolvent. Employer and employee taxes combined pay for only 30 percent of actual costs, according to the liberal Urban Institute. The reason is simple: No one wants to make the elderly, a powerful voting block, pay the full cost of their medical care.

If Medicare for the elderly is destroying the government’s solvency, how would Medicare for all people work? Using our taxes to pay for unlimited “free” health care would swallow the entire economy — unless it would become solvent by charging higher rates and taxes and providing fewer services. Look to Canada and England for some answers — it isn’t pretty.

The lack of true competition, wasteful and corrupt practices, and failed governmental policies … these are the real barriers to meaningful access to health care services.

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Canada is often held up as the model of the Utopian single-payer health care system. Private insurers there ration care by limiting physician panels (your availability to see a physician) as well as the availability of drugs and procedures. The wait in Canada for basic procedures is substantial, despite its citizens routinely crossing into the U.S. to get care.

In addition, U.S. drug prices (by far the highest in the world) allow pharmaceutical companies to charge Canadians and the rest of the world much less. This hidden drug subsidy that Americans pay for currently is the major reason most “single-payer” systems around the world are as solvent as they are. And still, most single-payer systems like the one in Canada are struggling.

What we need here at home is a simple solution: All U.S. payers pay the same price. That price should be the lowest price of a drug in any Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nation. If you are poor, Medicaid covers the cost, but the price discrimination so often used to shift cost and maintain pharma profits at U.S. consumers’ expense would disappear overnight. The cost saving to Medicare and Medicaid as well as individuals would be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

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It’s the lack of true competition, wasteful and corrupt practices, and failed governmental policies that have kept prices too high in the U.S. — these are the real barriers to meaningful access to health care services for the vast majority of low- and middle-income Americans. The crony capitalists and Washington bureaucrats only want more of the same.

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Why would politicians be more responsive or effective here than with the VA or Medicaid (where reimbursement rates are so low that doctors don’t participate)? These single-payer systems in the U.S. are rife with inefficiency and fraud — and provide inadequate care to those most vulnerable.

We can do better. Crony capitalism and suffocating government regulation masquerading as meaningful health care reform are bankrupting us. Medicare for All is not the answer.

Dr. Ramin Oskoui, a cardiologist in the Washington, D.C., area, is CEO of Foxhall Cardiology PC and a regular contributor to LifeZette. 

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