Younger doctors who are flirting with support of government-run health care should consider some hard facts—including the unfortunate results such control would likely have for patients and doctors themselves. They should also look at the recent raw experience of Britain with a government-controlled health care system.
But first, let’s look at the most serious plan for government-run health care: Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act of 2017, which has the support of one-third of Senate Democrats.
Recently, Sanders, I-Vt., claimed that his bill would save more than $2 trillion over a 10-year period. According to the Associated Press, however, the senator “mischaracterized” the analysis upon which that estimate was based, a major study of the cost of the Sanders bill by Charles Blahous, a former Medicare trustee, now at the Mercatus Center.
As the Associated Press’ fact check notes, the $2.1 trillion “savings” estimate rests on the implausible assumption—studiously ignored by Sanders and others—that hospitals and staffing levels would remain the same—despite an estimated 40 percent reduction in compensation for medical services.
Such a massive pay cut would guarantee, says Blahous, that doctors and hospitals would get paid for services “substantially below” their costs of providing the services. Thus, he warns, “ … whether providers could sustain such losses and remain in operation, and how those who continue operations would adapt to such dramatic payment reductions, are critically important questions.”
Yes, they are. Blahous’ findings are particularly relevant for young men and women entering medical school. As Kaiser Health News recently reported, a growing contingent of young physicians and medical students favor expanding the power of government officials to control medicine, and thus their professional lives.
After all, most students become doctors more out of a desire to care for patients than to make a lot of money. Sanders’ proposed pay cut, however, would likely price many doctors out of independent practice, as well as decimate larger medical systems—neither of which would benefit patients.
Medicare would ostensibly be the model for Sanders’ national health insurance program. Beyond lower payment levels, Medicare is governed by tens of thousands of pages of rules, regulations, and guidelines.
The transactional or administrative costs that doctors and other medical professionals already incur in compliance with these reams of red tape are real, though they do not show up on Medicare or Medicaid budget documents. That is one reason why Medicare’s official administrative costs are deceptively low; the government shifts a large share of administrative costs onto medical professionals.
By 2030, America faces a physician shortage ranging from roughly 43,000 to 121,000, depending upon the assumptions. The crush of nonclinical administrative duties are today a leading cause of American physician burnout and accelerated retirements.
Ultimately, the Sanders bill, by reducing physician compensation while enlarging the power of Washington’s health care bureaucracy, would only make matters worse.
Read the full story from The Daily Signal
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