Medicare-for-All fine print: Are you ready to give up your current coverage?

During this week’s “Medicare-for-All” hearing on Capitol Hill, Budget Chairman John Yarmuth, D-Ky., vowed to continue pushing for “access to quality, affordable health care” via the radical new proposal that would amount to a full government takeover of our health-care system.

However, achieving this goal will not come from socialized health care.

As noted by the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare-for-All could “lead to lower quality of care for patients,” and will cut doctor compensation which will “reduce the amount of care supplied.”

Under this plan “participants would not have a choice of insurer or health benefits,” and the development of new treatments and technologies would be slowed.

Not as easy as the left claims

To start, according to the Galen Institute, the transition to single-payer health care would force 173 million Americans to give up their current plan, and care would be arbitrarily apportioned and rationed by the government. Tax-advantaged Health Savings Accounts – which give choice and flexibility to 25 million American families –would also be repealed.

However, advocates of single payer say that transitioning to this system is simply a matter of shifting spending from the private sector to the government.

This is misleading. Overhauling the health-care system would cost between $32 and $36 trillion in new federal spending over the next ten years, based on research from experts on the left and the right. This will mean dramatically higher taxes on every American family and business – not just “the rich” and large corporations that Democrats demonize.

Total U.S. health-care spending per year currently reaches $3.5 trillion, and roughly 60 percent of this is already borne by the federal government, so Medicare-for-All would require significant new spending.

There is no easy way to pay for this. Proponents of Medicare-for-All argue there would be efficiencies through consolidation and point to the fact that government programs such as Medicare already have low administrative costs, so they say expanding this program to all Americans will lead to savings.

Again, this is only one part of the picture. While public insurance often spends less than private insurance, this comparison is misleading.

Medicare Part D is administered through the federal government, but there are savings from the competition between Pharmacy Benefit Managers, insurers and manufacturers. Other agencies help administer the program – the IRS, the Social Security Administration and the states all play a role.

Moreover, administrative costs are only one part of a bigger picture – they can be reduced at the expense of better service or measures to fight waste, fraud and abuse.

Leading to shortages of care

Even if transitioning to a socialized system could be a smooth process, the new system will inevitably result in the rationing of health care.

Socialized medicine works by a combination of price controls and a reduction of payments for caregivers that would ration care for patients, harm the development of medicines, and limit patient access, as noted by CBO.

This is not hypothetical – there are numerous examples of the single-payer health-care systems used by foreign governments leading to shortages of care, medicines and doctors.

For instance, in the United Kingdom, patients reportedly wait more than six months to receive medical treatment and almost 25 percent of cancer patients did not start treatment on time despite referrals from their doctor. Canada’s system is a little better – patients reportedly wait over 20 weeks on average to receive treatment from a specialist. At any one time, over one million Canadians are waiting for a procedure.

This rationing of care extends to medicines.

Of the 290 new medical substances that were launched worldwide between 2011 and 2018, the U.S. had access to 90 percent. In contrast, the United Kingdom had access to just 60 percent of medicines, while Canada had access to just 44 percent.


Make no mistake, the single-payer health-care plan being pushed by Democrats would end the U.S. health-care system as we know it.

Medicare-for-All would lead to tax hikes for every American, end current health care plans for 175 million Americans, and restrict access and choice for patients.

Alex Hendrie is director of tax policy at Americans for Tax Reform, a free market advocacy organization dedicated to lower taxes and limited government.