Medicare for All: Are we stupid yet?

Harold Black, PhDBlog

When he reached his 80s, my dad said that the scammers must think that he had gotten stupid from all the scam calls he was now getting. Well if that were the case, then the American electorate must have just turned 80. How else to explain the serious discussion about Medicare for All where the government takes over the healthcare insurance industry? The gang that gave us Obamacare with its high deductibles and rising premiums are now going to make things worse. With straight faces comes one proposal costing $3 trillion a year and another at “only” $2 trillion a year. Last fiscal year, the federal government collected a bit over $3 trillion in taxes. The $3 trillion a year plan means a doubling of federal taxes. So prepare for a serious uptick in your taxes regardless of your income. Substituting the increase in taxes for health insurance will result in decrease in disposable income for all Americans.

The $2 trillion a year plan is supposed to be financed solely by taxing billionaires – with no new taxes on the middle class. This plan assumes that voters are stupid. The total net worth of the billionaires in the US is around $3 trillion. So if we were to confiscate 100 percent of their wealth, we would be able to finance the least expensive Medicare for All plan for only 18 months. Costs aside, anyone who has looked at the federal government’s sad performance at the VA and the Indian Health Service has to be out of his mind to support a government takeover of healthcare.

Medicare for All ignores both the supply of healthcare and the demand for it. If consumers do not have to directly pay for a good and the price stays the same regardless of the quantity demanded, then the demand for the good soars. Since Medicare for All eliminates copays and everyone is covered, expect jammed medical facilities as more people will go see the doctor for every ailment – major , minor and imagined. This will produce a greater burden on medical facilities and those medical personnel who remain. Medicare pays providers about 40 percent of the actual cost of providing a service. With no private insurance to make up the slack, we should expect that when faced with a flood of new patients and a fall in reimbursement, doctors will seek new professions. Doctors’ income will fall and the number of people going to medical schools will decline. Lower reimbursements mean that medical facilities will close, leaving fewer facilities to treat more patients with fewer medical personnel. The Times of London recently noted that a decline in U.K. physicians, combined with an increase in patients has resulted in some areas having a single doctor for every 11,000 patients. In some areas, families wait six weeks to see a general practitioner. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a guide while bear hunting in Canada. He said that he had to travel several hundred miles to see a doctor because none wanted to practice in rural areas. Dentists were so scarce that he had to pull his own teeth. He said Canadian healthcare was lousy but at least he didn’t have to pay for it.

The left, which hates everything big, would entrust healthcare to the biggest, most wasteful, least responsive entity of them all – the Federal government. There is already massive waste from Medicare fraud and mismanagement. Enrolling the entire population in Medicare would only compound these problems. Imagine the results: a lack of incentive to develop new drugs; the unemploying of millions of private insurance employees; the ending of private insurance policies provided by employers; bankrupting private insurance companies and driving share prices to zero without compensating investors; folding Medicaid into Medicare; eliminating the funding by states in the provision of Medicaid; and by covering everyone – including illegal immigrants – one can expect a surge in illegal immigration and even greater demand for medical services. The result, like that in other single pay systems will be the rationing of drugs, procedures and surgeries, especially to seniors. Over 60,000 Canadians annually flee their socialized health care system and come to the United States for treatment. If Medicare for All were enacted where would the Americans go? I see an explosion in the chartering of offshore medical facilities in our future.

Someone once said that government healthcare would have the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the Postal Service, the pricing structure of a Pentagon toilet seat and the swiftness of the Department of Motor Vehicles. So, if you want a lower standard of living and worse healthcare, then Medicare for All is perfect for you.

How is this even taken seriously? My father would say that we must have become stupid after all.

Dr. Harold Black is professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. This piece appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE. Dr. Black can be reached