Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill is a terrible idea

Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT) will introduce a healthcare bill in Congress calling it “Medicare for All Act of 2017.”

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WASHINGTON, September 13, 2017 — Senator Bernie Sanders, Socialist-Vt., is set to introduce a new healthcare bill in Congress. He calls it the “Medicare for All Act of 2017.” If it became law, it would provide everyone living in America health and dental care for almost zero out-of-pocket expenses, along with vision and hearing-aid coverage.

Sanders’ proposal includes providing health care coverage to illegal immigrants.

This plan is similar to Sanders’ prior healthcare proposals, but this one would allow a four-year phase-in period. It would all but eliminate private health insurers, although specialty policies for wealthier Americans would probably remain available.

Is Sanders’ proposal a good idea?


Sanders would say that providing health care to all people living in America is the primary goal of healthcare reform. A second goal would be to provide it at the lowest possible price. A third goal would be to provide the highest quality healthcare.

To reach the first goal, Sanders would provide health care to everyone through an expansion of Medicare. Everyone in America could receive healthcare benefits while paying little or nothing out of pocket.

To reach the second goal, all medical costs would be paid by the government, which would set prices for medical services in a way that would stop doctors, hospitals and drug companies from charging abnormally high prices, however those may be defined. To keep costs from rising, the government would simply set the price for each service, treatment or device that could be charged by medical professionals across the boards.

There is no specific mention about how the government could achieve the third goal. Presumably, the government could provide funding for research in areas the Feds deems necessary for serving the public good.

Sanders doesn’t say how the country would pay for this. However, since his approach is clearly a government program, it would clearly have to be paid for by taxing the middle class.

The opposition answer to a single-payer healthcare plan has the same goals as Sanders’ proposed bill, but endorses a different priority. Sanders’ plan stems from his belief that covering the 9 percent of Americans currently without health insurance as its number one priority. Opponents would argue that providing the highest quality care to the 85 percent of the population who paid for their health insurance prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) should be the nation’s number one priority.

For opponents of Sanders’ ideas, who still believe there is a better way, the second priority should be to provide that care to the 85 percent at the lowest possible cost. For them, the third priority of any new or revised plan would be to provide coverage for as many citizens as possible.

Most American citizens likely favor this view. Why?

It is rational to place the needs of the many above the needs of the few. The logic is simple. Suppose you are flying on an airplane with a young child and the cabin loses oxygen causing the oxygen masks to drop down. It is natural for parents to secure the masks of their children before putting on their own.

The airlines instruct passengers to secure their own masks first, before assisting children. The reason is that if you tend to the child first, you may pass out before securing your own mask, and the child can’t help you. If you attend to yourself first, both adult and child are more likely to survive.

Sanders’ proposal would not control costs and would result in poorer quality care. Since there would be little or no out of pocket expense to see a doctor, people would go to the doctor for every possible ailment, even if the ailment did not really require a medical professional.

As in Canada, this would result in routinely long waiting times to see doctors for any problem or ailment, simple or severe. Those who really needed care would have a serious problem seeing a doctor on a timely basis, potentially leading to increased—and often unnecessary—mortality.

Further, there would be no competitive market forces to reduce cost. Normally competitive pressures in the market force efficiencies, leading to lower costs and lower prices. The single-payer government plan would simply mandate a price reduction in whatever areas bureaucrats deemed appropriate, regardless of costs. This backward approach would also result in poorer quality care.

California examined a single-payer health care system and its state legislator was ready to ram a single-payer plan through both houses. Even though the Governor and the state legislatures initially favored the plan, its realistically outrageous cost estimates resulted in the bill being scrapped. (This pattern was also repeated in Vermont, which dropped its own single-payer proposal.)

The California state budget spends about 265 million taxpayer dollars annually of which about $130 million is already spent on healthcare. To implement a single-payer system, spending on medical care would increase to $400 million annually.

Regardless of the positive and negative examples set by single payer health care systems in various countries, Americans have consistently rejected a single payer system every time it has been suggested, just as they continue to reject the failing ACA system that was imposed on them without their consent.

While we could debate the success of Medicare for the elderly, Medicare for all is simply a terrible idea. It’s just another name for single-payer, socialized medicine, the same kind of plan that has consistently failed in other countries.

Sanders’ single-payer healthcare proposal would result in poorer quality care, higher taxes on the middle class, and catastrophic, ever-increasing costs. Let’s once again stand firm and reject this tired proposal.

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