As the people of the United States try to correct the disastrous effects of the Affordable (more like Unaffordable) Care Act, the single payer advocates have become not-so-strangely noisier than ever, and what a coincidence because Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a proposal in September to establish a socialist system of single payer health care fondly known by the leftists as “Medicare for All.”
I must say that this is an interesting “comparison” because while both Medicaid and the Veterans Administration, are essentially single payer “health care” systems, Medicare itself does not pay for all care. In fact, Medicare beneficiaries must pay at least 20 percent of their medical and surgical service bills. That is why anyone watching television regularly sees all sorts of commercials by AARP and Humana, as well as others, for insurance policies that supplement Medicare or offer an all-in-one Medicare Advantage plan. Both Medicare supplement and Medicare Advantage plans involve paying a premium over and above the standard Medicare Part B premium. So clearly, Medicare is NOT a totally single-payer system, although it does have a lot of single payer aspects to it and is a government-run program. There are commercial interests getting a piece of the coverage action.
So, really? “Medicare for All?” To begin with, I think the single payer advocates need to come up with a better moniker. Beyond that, however, the U.S. does not have to repeat mistakes made by other countries with such plans. Those plans are clearly not performing the way they were expected to.
Let’s focus on the example of jolly old England (or maybe not so jolly?). The National Health Service there is an example of the results of generalized taxation to pay for “guaranteed” health care for everyone in England, which is similar to Sanders’ proposal as well as that of the rejected single payer initiative in Colorado.
I will start by relating an observation by writer Theodore Dalrymple in an online article in the Library of Law and Liberty website.
Dalrymple begins his commentary on the continuing implosion of the British Health system with these words:
“One of the most curious political phenomena of the western world is the indestructible affection in which the British hold their National Health Service. No argument, no criticism, no evidence can diminish, let alone destroy, it.”
Dalrymple then adds that the only permissible criticism of the NHS is that the government does not spend enough money on it.
At this point, I cannot help but make the observation that the attitude of government dependence is what got Britain into this fix in the first place, which brings me to a couple of questions.
- When it comes to a government-run “health care” system, how much more money is enough?
- Will throwing more money at a problem ever really solve it?
To me, and others such as Senator Rand Paul who think in more liberty-minded terms, throwing more money at problem government programs that have not improved with the amount of money they already use, basically institutionalizes the government program, and gives the illusion that, come hell or high water, that program MUST continue.
Dalrymple states that despite the status of the NHS being elevated to a national religion, the British Red Cross has said that the system is in an “incipient humanitarian crisis.” He compares the level of crisis the Red Cross has declared to to that of an earthquake, hurricane, or other natural disaster in Haiti because the organization’s assistance has been needed in at least 20 hospitals run by the NHS.
Additionally, Dalrymple makes the point that the NHS budget has grown by more than 50 percent than was allocated 10 years ago and it employs 25 percent more doctors than it did in that same time period, and yet the present situation is described as the “worst ever.”
Clearly the popular British refrain that the government must simply be more generous with the people’s sacred cow, the NHS, in terms of funding is clearly more failure waiting to happen because steady increases in funding and employed doctors over the past 10 years have failed to improve the availability and quality of patient care.
In the U.S., the propensity of Congress to throw more money at the Obamacare implosion problem by granting billions of dollars in subsidies to insurance companies has, at least for now, been thwarted by the Oct. 12 executive order by President Trump along with an order to allow association health plans throughout the United States that could negotiate with insurers for lower premiums.
This small window into Britain’s single payer headaches is only one example of the pitfalls of a government having a high level of control and centralization when it comes to delivering health care for the overall population.
Once again, I have to ask:
Why must the United States, which has been a place of innovation and opportunity from the time it was founded, just copycat dubious and used solutions to societal challenges? We must find our own way based on the bedrock principle upon which this country was founded – liberty.