'Medicare for All' is as scary as it gets

'Medicare for All' is as scary as it gets
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There is no mystery as to what House Democrats want to do with American medical care. Their intentions are clearly spelled out in House Resolution 676, also known as the “Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act.”

Its sponsors promise to provide “comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents, improved health care delivery, and for other purposes.”  


These assurances, as sponsored by Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersCalifornia comes to terms with the costs and consequences of slavery Democrats debate timing and wisdom of reparations vote House panel approves bill to set up commission on reparations MORE (D-Mich.) and his Democrat colleagues, carry as much weight as President Obama’s promise that you can keep your medical insurance and your doctor under Obama Care.

Only HR676 is much worse: You lose your primary health insurance, you cannot buy supplemental insurance (such as Medicare Advantage), and your medical care provider must be either public or non-profit, operating under the strictures of Washington bureaucrats. 

Much of the public attention on HR676 has focused on its cost, which could run in the tens of trillions, but I am less worried by the costs than by what it will do to my own health insurance and health care. Here’s what sections 101 through 104 say: 

First, all individuals residing in the United States and its territories are covered. They will receive a Medicare for All card in the mail. Visitors from other countries are covered (Hopefully the other countries will pony up for some of the costs). The secretary of Health and Human Services will determine “residency,” but the writing suggests undocumented aliens will be covered.

Second, HR676 offers cradle-to-grave, head-to-toe coverage that includes virtually all medical-related service known to mankind. Covered is all medical care, including prescription drugs, dietary therapies and medical equipment, but also “the full scope of medical services, substance abuse, chiropractic services, hearing devices, and vision.”

Third, this remarkable array of promised medical services will be paid for by government and “no deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, or other cost-sharing shall be imposed with respect to covered benefits.” Just imagine, dental implants and weekly visits to the local chiropractor — and it’s all free.

Third, participating providers must be public or nonprofit institutions. Private physicians, private clinics and other private health-care providers can practice medicine only if they convert to nonprofit status. (Presumably the government will compensate them for their financial losses).

Under HR 676, hospitals, opticians, medical-device makers, dental practices and virtually every other provider will break the law by turning a profit! I guess we can expect talented young adults to go through eight years of medical training to earn a salary dictated by Washington.      

Fourth, patients are promised to have free choice of participating physicians and other clinicians, hospitals and inpatient care facilities. This promise assumes that overrun medical care providers will accept them or give them an appointment within one year. 

Fifth, private health insurance is unlawful if it “duplicates the benefits under this act.” Insofar as HR 676 covers all conceivable medical procedures, HR 676 in practice outlaws private health insurance. But do not worry, private insurers can sell insurance for “services and items that are not medically necessary.”

The last refuge of health insurance will be facelifts, but how long will it take before they are classified as necessary medical expenses? 

The Democratic campaign slogan of Medicare for All apparently has traction, but I suspect much of its appeal comes from the fact that no one has read HR 676. Besides, who should take it seriously with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE as president?

If, however, the Democrats gain control of Congress and win the presidency in 2020, HR 676 betrays their intentions with respect to medical care. Under their vision of American health care, the government, either directly or through intrusive regulation, will dictate what care we are allowed to get.

We will have no alternatives because for-profit doctors and other medical suppliers will be operating outside of the law, perhaps in back alleys. I doubt that the American public will tolerate such as system.

We are smart enough to know that, although a single-payer-almighty Big Brother promises to pay our medical bills, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Seniors: Under an HR676, get ready to stand in long lines for shrinking medical care  along with 330 million other Americans, all waving their "VA for All" cards.

Paul Roderick Gregory is a professor of economics at the University of Houston, Texas, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a research fellow at the German Institute for Economic Research.