Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Eleven years ago, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare was received by Americans as a sweeping, and for some, radical change in the American healthcare system. The bill implemented an individual mandate requiring Americans to have health insurance (and penalizing them if they did not) and regulated insurers to prevent them from denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions. However, it said nothing about a government-run insurance system or the elimination of private health insurance. Today, though, an alarmingly sizable portion of the far-left wing of the Democratic party — led by Senator Bernie Sanders (D–Vt.) — proposes something that would have likely seemed nonsensical at any other point in American history: Medicare for All.
Medicare for All is the policy of eliminating private insurance —which is availed by hundreds of millions of Americans — and adopting a government-run single-payer system, a radical shift from the status quo. Although rhetoric from proponents may contend that the plan is effective since it guarantees every American healthcare coverage, the one-size-fits-all policy reduces healthcare quality, increases premiums, and makes spending and debt skyrocket.
Medicare for All is Bad for the Economy
Perhaps the most obvious and commonly cited concern regarding Medicare for All is its sheer cost and effects on the economy. An analysis from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania exposes these effects, saying that Medicare for All would “decimate the economy” by shrinking the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by 40% in 40 years.
The policy’s exorbitant price of $32 trillion also worries economists. Implementing it would result in a 20% increase in taxes at a minimum, including on the middle class.
Moreover, the extension of Medicare to all Americans would result in the loss of assistance for vulnerable and low-income Americans who currently benefit from Medicare or Medicaid. Rather than improving benefits for families in need, it would provide services to families that can afford or are already provided private insurance.
Medicare for All Reduces Healthcare Quality and Hinders Innovation
A common argument by proponents of Medicare for All is that the plan would result in quality health coverage for all Americans, often citing the single-payer systems in foreign countries. However, this statement is misleading; in reality, it is the U.S. with the best quality healthcare, which is also why foreigners in dire conditions, more often than not, come to the U.S. to receive their respective treatments.
Because the U.S. allows private companies to handle healthcare, the magic of a free-market economy increases competition between companies, providing a steady increase in healthcare quality. In contrast, a government-run system would eliminate said competition and reduce the motivation to improve. Similarly, it would hinder medical innovation. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma calls Medicare for All (and other government-run single-payer models) “the greatest threat to innovation in healthcare.”
The harm Medicare for All does to quality would even extend down to the level of individual doctors. Because the government would be responsible for the healthcare system and would naturally try to keep costs low, doctors would earn less and may not have as strong of an incentive to provide quality medical care. Furthermore, from somewhat of a domino effect due to the government’s limited spending on healthcare, if Medicare for All were to be implemented, many doctors would likely rush through sessions to keep their own costs down.
Medicare for All Itself Is Misleading and Not As Popular As Some Claim
Finally, the actual content of Senator Sanders’ Medicare for All bill has been discovered to be much different than what voters expect. Even the proposal’s name contains loaded words and is misleading; according to a poll by the Kaiser Foundation, 66% of Americans support “Medicare for All” solely based on its name. That percentage decreased to 45% when those polled were informed that the plan would result in a single-payer system and further decreased to 33% when they were informed of the plan’s aforementioned implications on taxes and the economy.
Furthermore, Senator Sanders’ plan contains inaccurate information and projections regarding its cost and implications. For instance, while proponents claim that the plan would cost $14 trillion over ten years, the reality is that it would cost between $30 and $40 trillion.
Although some project Medicare for All as a miracle plan that would solve America’s healthcare problems, the overwhelming reality is that the radical change would instead result in disaster for America and make current healthcare and economy-related crises direr.