As an emergency room physician and cancer survivor, I understand that each minute counts in a medical emergency. And as our nation chooses a direction on health care this November, we need to remember the realities that follow from government-run socialized medicine – increased taxes, longer wait times, delayed care and fewer incentives to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Socialized medicine will have profoundly negative effects on our country. The Medicare for All plans proposed by Democrats in the House and Senate are authoritarian measures that will control the lives of Americans in the most intimate way possible. Under Medicare for All, the federal government will possess the medical records of every American and have the power to dictate when and what type of care you receive. This will ultimately lead to rationed care and unaccountable bureaucrats making the most difficult, ethical decisions about your life.
The Tennesseans I represent have no interest in allowing the federal government to take such an intrusive role in our health care decisions. If the government pays for our health care, are they going to tell us how many kids we can have, whether we can drink sugary sodas, or whether we can smoke? Ultimately, socialized medicine endangers our freedom to make life choices. That’s why the best direction for America’s health care system is to get the heavy hand of government out of the way and let patients, doctors, and states make their own medical decisions.
Socialized medicine will not only entail a massive government expansion into the private life of every American: It will also place a tremendous burden on the backs of the American taxpayers. Neither Medicare for All bill even attempts to put a price on its plan. That is always a bad sign. Organizations across the political spectrum have estimated the costs, and the numbers are staggering. According to the Mercatus Center, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) Medicare for All plan could cost taxpayers an additional $32.6 trillion over ten years.
Sanders’ plan does not specify where the money will come from, but we know the only way to pay for it will be to dramatically raise taxes across the board. The Heritage Foundation estimates that two-thirds of American households will see a dramatic increase in taxes. In other words, American families will be paying more for supposedly “free health care.”
Public option health care plans like those favored by Presidential nominee Joe Biden are just as radical, despite rhetoric that suggests otherwise. Dr. Lanhee J. Chen of the Hoover Institute explains that a “public option could add more than $700 billion to the 10-year federal deficit.” The long-term cost may be even greater, exceeding military spending by 2042 and matching combined spending on Medicaid and Affordable Care Act subsidies by 2049.
A public option is more insidious because it masquerades under the guise of choice. In the end, however, it will leave Americans with only one choice: government-run health care. A public option creates a government monopoly over health care that can only lead to higher prices and lower quality.
The House Medicare for All bill creates this monopoly by eliminating existing health insurance coverage and forcing 246.5 million Americans who already have health insurance off of their current plans. Doctors, too, would have no choice. Under this new regime, if doctors treat a patient without Medicare, they are barred from treating any patient on the government plan for an entire year. There are few doctors who could sustain a practice under such circumstances, ensuring that most doctors will only be available to those on Medicare. This makes doctors de facto employees of the federal government.
Socialized medicine will eliminate the fundamental tenets of our free market system: competition, freedom to make contracts, and the opportunity to profit from one’s work. Medicare for All treats profit as the enemy, but the possibility of making a profit drives innovation. If the government places unreasonable price controls on pharmaceutical companies, then companies will have no incentive to take the risk that comes with novel drug development and provide patients with lifesaving treatments.
Smothering America’s health care system in more layers of government bureaucracy is not the answer. The solution is more choice not less, more freedom not more regulation, and more independence for doctors, not more dependence.
Government shouldn’t have more say in our health care than we do. We are not perpetual children who need a paternal state to take care of us from cradle to grave. We are Americans – free and independent, capable of self-government and rational choice.
Through self-government and ingenuity, we have created the most prosperous nation to ever exist. Socialized health care threatens this legacy. It overburdens our country with debt and the American people with taxes. It is not only a massive expansion of government power: it means rationed care, late detection, stagnated innovation, and increased mortality rates.
Medicare for All promises that a benevolent government will provide health care for all. It promises that we will continue to enjoy the highest quality of care while lowering its cost. It promises that this plan will speak health care into existence as a fundamental human right. This is a false promise – a false hope. The reality of socialized medicine is a sad tale of government incompetence and human tragedy.
Freedom loving Americans should resist the path of socialized, centralized health care this November. Instead of pushing for more government control, we need to let doctors, patients, and families take control of their medical care. Increasing the size of the federal government isn’t the cure for our nation’s health care crisis. It’s one of its biggest causes. We are a people made for liberty; no other governmental system will do.
Green is a business leader, combat veteran, and physician. He represents Tennessee’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he serves on the House Oversight, Foreign Affairs, and Homeland Security Committees.