Leading Democrats Health Care Proposals Break Hippocratic Oath

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The summer heat was far from the only hot air blowing through Miami in June.  The blustering Democratic presidential candidates gave taxpayers a close look at their expensive, wasteful, and disastrous policy proposals, with Medicare-for-All being perhaps the most worrisome.

In their quest for the highest office in the land, the Democrats are embracing Medicare-for-All as the best path forward in health care.  But, this policy prescription comes with intolerable side effects.

Despite its virtuous-sounding name, Medicare-for-All is a wholesale takeover of health care by the federal government and constitutes the imposition of socialized medicine.  If enacted, Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid for the disadvantaged and disabled, and all forms of private and employer-provided insurance that are now enjoyed by more than 250 million Americans would all be eradicated.

This is unlike the sunny but inaccurate promise perpetrated during the Obamacare debates that “if you like your plan you can keep it.”  Under Medicare-for-All, your individual plan will be gone, whether you like it or not.

The debates made it clear that Medicare-for-All means government bureaucrats would control all aspects of health care.  Patients would lose their ability to choose their own doctors and receive only those treatments that were approved by the government.  Those decisions would be made based on cost rather than effectiveness.  And some Democrats are proposing versions of Medicare-for-All that would make it illegal to obtain insurance or use cash to pay for any private medical care. 

This horror show runs daily in countries with socialized medicine.  Health care is rationed by bureaucrats and access is restricted to many common medical treatments to reduce costs.  Months-long wait times for basic and even urgently-needed procedures are common.  In the United Kingdom, more than one in five patients are forced to wait more than two months to begin treatment after being diagnosed with cancer.  Canada, to which many Democratic candidates refer when they promote ideas like Medicare-for-All, has the worst wait times. 

The other elephant in the room is the price tag.  The socialized health care utopia of Medicare-for-All can be had for the astronomical cost of $32 trillion over 10 years.  A doubling of existing income tax rates could not begin to pay for it.  It is ironic that at the same time the candidates were falling all over each other so see who could come up with the most radical, socialized health care proposal, the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), has said, “I think the $32 trillion price tag for Medicare-for-All is a little scary.” 

Beyond the eye-popping cost, it is not hard to imagine the massive waste, fraud and abuse that would occur within a fully government-run system.  The Government Accountability Office reported a record $141 billion in improper payments in 2017.  Medicare and Medicaid accounted for $88.6 billion, or 62.8 percent.  

Medicare-for-All will be unchartered territory.  Such a radical and disastrous proposal would have been unthinkable from the Democratic Party not too long ago.  Today, it is being embraced by their leading presidential candidates, about one-third of Senate Democrats, and about half of House Democrats.

There is no doubt that America’s health care system can be improved and that the policy decisions involved in doing so are challenging and complex.  But the current slate of Democratic candidates would be wise to apply a key line from the Hippocratic oath to their health care policy proposals:  First, do no harm to America’s patients and taxpayers.

Tom Schatz is the President of Citizens Against Government Waste and a member of the Coalition Against Socialized Medicine.

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