My college-age child introduced me to a website called I Like Bernie, But… which is particularly appealing to young voters. The website offers short answers to concerns pro-Bernie voters might still be harboring about his policies and his ability to win. With few exceptions, these answers are just plain wrong. You can see my rebuttals at a website I set up as a counterweight (I Don’t Like Bernie, Because…). I’ve republished those same articles here, at my own blog, addressing Bernie’s socialism, his tax plans, and his Second Amendment stance. Today I’m tackling everything that’s wrong with Bernie’s plan to socialize American medicine.
The I Like Bernie site imagines a worried Progressive voter exclaiming “I heard he wants to get rid of Obamacare!” Not to worry , says I Like Bernie. In fact, Bernie wants to make Obamacare even better by putting our entire medical system into government hands:
This promise — that everyone will get high-quality, free medical care, thereby saving American families thousands of dollars a year, while keeping them healthier — is false. There is no way Bernie can do this. The numbers don’t add up, and both the Obamacare experience in America and the socialized medicine experience in Europe show that the free market, not government, is the only way to bring costs down, making quality medical care available to everyone. If you have the patience, this post will walk you through the analysis, using what I hope is clear, simple language, making learning about the economics of medical care a relatively painless process. (Or, as the doctor with the big needle aimed at your arm always says, “This won’t hurt a bit.”)
I. What Bernie promises
Bernie’s campaign, in its ongoing effort to pretend that Bernie is not a socialist (he is, and that’s a bad thing), has titled his plan “Medicare for all.” When he talks about his plan, though, Bernie skips that cute Medicare euphemism and goes for the kill: “The only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program.”
The “single payer” to whom Bernie refers is the government. That’s a euphemism too. The government isn’t really paying for anything at all, because the government doesn’t have money of its own. It never earns money, it takes money. Thus, all of the money in its bank account is actually taken from every American who pays taxes.
So what Bernie really means when he talks about single-payer nationalized medicine is that he wants “taxpayer-funded” health care. He envisions using taxpayers to fund his grandiose plan of setting up a system in which the government takes those taxpayer funds and, after siphoning off vast funds for administrative salaries, waste, and graft, takes what’s left to pay for doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, hospitals (everything from janitors to floor clerks to surgeons), and pharmaceuticals. It will impose these prices from the top down, bullying doctors and nurses who spent years, or even decades, perfecting their skills; hospitals that have invested millions in infrastructure to provide patient care; and pharmaceutical companies that routinely invest millions in research that usually comes up dry, in the hopes of hitting it big with the odd medicine here and there.
Here’s the truth: Even if you love Bernie’s plan, it can’t work. The numbers won’t add up, just as they haven’t been adding up in Europe or in America (with Obamacare). In the rest of this post, I’ll explain why.