October 27, 2020

‘Medicare for All’ movement would be bad for country

Democrats’ central promise on health-care reform used to be, “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it.” As many of us predicted during debates about Obamacare, that turned out not to be true. Millions of Americans lost their chosen health plans after the disastrous law took effect.

Ambitions on the political left have become more extreme since, with so-called “Medicare for All” emerging as the popular new idea. Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a proposal that has won the support of four other Democratic senators running for President and received praise from much of the field. A companion bill in the House now has 108 cosponsors, apparently abandoning the idea of protecting Americans who are satisfied with their current plans.

Today’s advocates are more upfront about the effects of these proposals than in the past, openly calling for 180 million Americans currently on private and employer-sponsored health insurance to lose their plans in a government takeover of the industry.

This would not just end the private insurance most Americans prefer – it would bankrupt Medicare and likely bankrupt us all. “Medicare for All” would really mean Medicare for none.

“Medicare for All” is Not What it Sounds Like

Medicare is a vital part of our nation’s health-insurance system. It provides certainty to millions of Americans over the age of 65, including almost 600,000 Mississippians. These seniors paid into this program when they worked and younger Americans are paying into the system today. Young people deserve assurances that a solvent Medicare will be there for them when they retire.

According to an independent study, Medicare for All would destroy this system. Research by the Mercatus Center shows that it would cost taxpayers $32 trillion over ten years and $170 trillion over 30 years, ballooning our nation’s debt.

Proponents of bad ideas often fall silent when asked how to pay for them. Our country has experienced historic economic gains, with impressive wage growth for low-skill workers, since Congress lowered tax rates almost a year and a half ago. A program like Medicare for All would require new and higher taxes on Americans at every income level, especially the poor and middle class. This would reverse the progress we have made, hurting families, businesses, and individuals and lowering our country’s prospects for growth.

Association Health Plans Could Cover 400,000 Previously Uninsured People

Choice and competition, not government, made the American health-care system one of the best and most innovative in the world. But anyone who has paid for health insurance knows that prices are high and continue to climb. This is a serious problem worthy of Congressional consideration. Unrealistic, destructive proposals only serve as distractions.

President Trump issued a new rule last summer that has allowed small businesses, farmers, restaurant owners, and the self-employed to join together to purchase health insurance, including plans across state lines. This rule gives smaller employers the power to negotiate lower prices similar to larger companies.

I am encouraged that 30 of these Association Health Plans (AHPs) have formed under the new rule already. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, 4 million people are expected to enroll in AHPs by 2023, 400,000 of whom would otherwise be uninsured. I cosponsored legislation in mid-April to protect these plans so that more Americans can benefit from them.

There is a path forward to improve our health-care system and keep our promises to Americans. Health-care reformers should preserve what works and fix what does not.

Republican Roger Wicker represents Mississippi in the U.S. Senate.