The more voters learn about it the more they oppose it
By Sally Pipes
WASHINGTON D.C. (Texas Insider Report) Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) had a painful run-in recently with a nursing home resident and member of The Greatest Generation. Roberta Jewell a resident at the Bickford Senior Living Center in Muscatine Iowa literally told the Democrat candidate to leave our health care alone.
Like many Americans Jewell is reluctant to embrace the Medicare-for-All plans Harris and several of her Democrat colleagues have proposed.
The Iowa senior citizen and is right to be wary. Medicare-for-all would destroy Medicare as we know it and make it harder for seniors to access care.
Harriss health care plan tries to be everything to everyone from those agitating for a government takeover of the health insurance market to those who want to preserve a role for private coverage.
Her plan would move all Americans into a new government-run health plan over 10 years. During that time newborns and the uninsured would be automatically enrolled in Harriss new and improved version of Medicare-for-all. Every American would also have the opportunity to buy into the new plan.
The funding scheme for her plan is dubious. Shed raise taxes on the wealthy employers and investors. But she promises to exempt people who make less than $100000 from any tax hikes. Instead shed impose new taxes on every stock bond and derivative trade.
During the 10-year transition period private insurers would be allowed to operate Medicare plans as long as they followed the governments rules. Essentially they could function like those that currently sell Medicare Advantage plans but only for that 10-year window.
In Canada my mother died of colon cancer after doctors delayed her colonoscopy in order to treat younger patients first.
Harris envisions paying private insurers less than what it costs the conventional Medicare plan to operate. Given that Medicare pays health care providers something like 40 percent less than private insurers do its unclear how many private insurers could afford to participate in Harriss scheme.
They may simply decide its not worth selling coverage when their business will be outlawed within a decade.
Regardless once Harriss brand of Medicare-for-all" becomes the only option seniors will find themselves in a health care system worse than what theyre used to.
Hospitals and doctors tolerate Medicares low payment rates because they can cover their costs and make a profit by charging private insurers more. If the entire population is on Medicares payment schedule providers wont have anyone else to shift costs onto.
Without private insurance hospitals will lose $151 billion in annual revenue. That will force them to cut services or in the case of rural hospitals already running on thin margins close entirely.
In a few years seniors will go from having a privileged place in the health care system to fighting with everybody else for access to care.
By offloading all health care bills onto the government single-payer systems create the prospect of unlimited demand. Add that to the comparatively limited supply of hospitals doctors and other health care personnel and you get rationing as the result.
When governments ration care they tend to start by curtailing the availability of procedures that seniors rely on.
Consider the United Kingdom where clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) determine which procedures the government-run National Health Service will cover in a particular area.
In March 2019 the majority of CCGs wouldnt cover cataract removal which they deemed a procedure of limited clinical value.
Many CCGs would only treat patients who had reached a certain level of vision loss.
Theyve also reduced access to hip and knee replacements in an effort to cut costs.
Elderly Canadians arent faring any better. In 2018 30 of patients waited longer than six months for hip and knee replacements as well as cataract surgery.
Unsurprisingly 1-in-5 Canadians 55 and older say they have major issues accessing health care.
And these wait times leave seniors in more than physical pain.
Consider the story of Jenny MacKenzie a retiree in Vancouver who was told in 2019 shed have to wait a full year for a hip replacement.
It really upsets me I cant cuddle my grandchildren or pick them up MacKenzie told a Canadian think tank.
Waits like these can be deadly.
From the governments perspective it may make more sense to prioritize treatment for younger patients who will live and pay taxes longer. Seniors often find themselves at the end of the line no matter how sick they are.
Ive experienced the effects of such rationing firsthand. In Canada my mother died of colon cancer after doctors delayed her colonoscopy in order to treat younger patients first.
Given the havoc it would wreak on our health care system in the United States its no wonder Roberta Jewell objects to Medicare-for-all."
Shes not alone. The more voters learn about it the more they oppose it.
Medicare-for-All would be hazardous for seniors and Rationed Care could be deadly.
Sally C. Pipes is president CEO & Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care. Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.