August 1, 2019

Myth vs. Fact on "Medicare for All"


  • Under Democrats’ so-called Medicare for All plans, long wait times and rationing of care will replace the kind of access, quality, and choice American patients expect.
  • Medicare for All will cut payments to hospitals and doctors, leaving patients struggling to find care.
  • When Americans hear the details on Medicare for All, support drops.  

Democrats have released a slew of plans to have Washington take over health care for every American. The plans differ in small details, but all eventually lead to a government-run health care system for all Americans. No other options. Ironically messaged as “Medicare for All,” the proposal would lead to access for none, with hundreds of millions of Americans losing their current coverage and seniors who paid into the Medicare program struggling to access care. Democrats’ arguments revolve around a series of myths.


MYTH: Democrats’ plans will “ensure that every person in the United States has access to health care.”

FACT: The government may promise access and give every person an insurance card, but it cannot guarantee people will get care.

Medicare for All proposals tend to lack specifics, but they generally start by eliminating private insurance, employer-sponsored coverage, federal employee coverage, TRICARE, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and the Medicare program as seniors know it today. Instead, Americans, even newborns, would be forced into an expanded, one-size-fits-all government-run health care system.

In 2016, Medicare reimbursement rates for health care providers only covered about 87% of the cost of care, but providers offset low Medicare reimbursement rates by charging private insurers an average of 145% of the cost. Under Democrats’ plans private insurance will be outlawed.

Since 2010, low Medicare reimbursement rates have contributed to 108 rural hospitals closing their doors. The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission reported in January that only 71% of health care providers accept new Medicaid enrollees, and 85% take new Medicare patients. If the entire population were added to Medicare, and providers payed the same low rates, millions of patients could struggle to find care.

Even the New York Times has conceded, “If Medicare for All abolished private insurance and reduced rates to Medicare levels — at least 40 percent lower, by one estimate — there would most likely be significant changes throughout the health care industry.”


MYTH: Every other highly developed country has government-run health care.

FACT: Many other countries have varying levels of public health insurance but have found that expanding nominal coverage can require government rationing of care.

In Canada patients report waiting at least four months for elective surgery, which can lead to their condition worsening. The Fraser Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Canada, found that patient waiting times averaged five months from seeking care to actually receiving treatment. Last year, more than 1 million Canadians, almost 3% of the population, were on waitlists for medically necessary care – for an average of 11 weeks. Canadians were waiting more than a month for CT scans and ultrasounds, and almost three months for MRI scans.

In Great Britain, a busier-than-expected flu season last year strained the system so badly that tens of thousands of patients were given substandard care or nothing at all. One in five emergency room patients waited longer than four hours to see a doctor, and 50,000 procedures deemed non-urgent by the government’s National Health Service were simply cancelled. Britain’s health system is understaffed, with large vacancies in physician and nursing positions. The NHS makes it clear to patients that they can expect to wait up to 18 weeks to receive specialized care. This is the result of putting the government in charge of determining what is necessary and who gets care.

Some countries allow private plans to fill in the gaps of their government-run health systems. For instance, in Britain the government pays for the majority of health care spending, but some people still opt for private coverage. Under the plans offered by Democrats, voluntary private health insurance would no longer be available for people who need or want medical services that are not covered by the government. 


MYTH: Americans want the government to run their health care.

FACT: When Americans learn the details, they reject the idea of giving Washington total control of their health care.

People are confused about what Democrats are proposing. In one survey by the left-leaning Kaiser Family Foundation, 55% of people thought they would be able to keep their current insurance plan under Medicare for All, which is the opposite of what Democrats have proposed. Under plans put forward in the House and the Senate, any employer-sponsored or private coverage that duplicates government benefits would be outlawed, leading 180 million Americans to lose their employer-sponsored coverage.

A 2017 Kaiser poll asked if people were comfortable getting their health insurance from a single government plan. Forty percent opposed the idea. When asked how they would feel if they were told such a plan would give the government too much control over health care, opposition rose to 62%.

A Harvard survey in 2017 similarly found Democrats’ plans lose support when Americans are told the true cost, especially when it means a personal tax increase. Pollsters asked if respondents supported “a taxpayer-funded national plan like Medicare,” and 66% said they did. Support dropped to 44% when people were told their taxes would rise.

In contrast, Americans continue to say they are generally satisfied with their private health coverage. Polling by Kaiser in July found that 76% of people hold a favorable view of employer-sponsored coverage.


Issue Tag: Health Care