Democrats aren’t just politicizing the coronavirus to blame Trump — they’re using it to push their pet projects. Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) said, “When I talk about health care being a human right … the coronavirus crisis makes that abundantly clear as to why it should be.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said of the outbreak, “It absolutely is an argument for Medicare for All.”
Yet, as Pacific Research Institute fellow Sally Pipes explained in The Washington Examiner, the coronavirus actually highlights the failures of socialized medicine. Pipes argued that countries with socialized medicine are ill-prepared for outbreaks.
In Canada, for example, “patients wait hours to be admitted to the hospital even when there’s not an outbreak raging. A January 2019 report commissioned by the government of Ontario found that patients in the emergency department were waiting 16 hours, on average, for an inpatient hospital bed.”
So when disaster strikes, Canada’s health care system becomes overwhelmed, Pipes explained. “During the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, 375 people came down with the virus. Forty-four died. Nearly three-quarters of those who contracted the virus did so in a hospital setting. ‘Our public health and emergency infrastructures were in a sorry state of decay,’ concluded the final report from the government of Ontario’s SARS Commission,” she wrote.
Over in Britain, the National Health Service was over capacity before the coronavirus hit. In 2019, 4.6 million people were on waiting lists for hospital care — the highest number ever. More than 15 percent had been on those waiting lists for more than 18 weeks. “Despite a population growth of 6% and an elderly population growth of 19%, the number of available hospital beds fell 10% between 2010 and 2018.” Ouch!
Besides this unworkability, socialist schemes supported by Bernie and AOC are also unaffordable. A Heritage Foundation study found that taxing the rich at 100 percent would fall trillions short of the cost for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
Pipes’ new book, False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All, explains why long waits and insufficient health care resources are endemic to socialized medicine plans like Medicare for All.
Health care need not be a zero-sum game — human innovation working through free markets can rise to the occasion and provide medicine for the young and old alike. Yet the kind of central planning increasingly in vogue on the left tends to view most forms of wealth as a pie to be distributed, rather than as a plant to be grown and cultivated.
When the government decides who does and who does not receive lifesaving medical care, it may decide the lives of the elderly are not worth saving. Indeed, experts in Italy have warned that the elderly may not receive intensive care as the coronavirus overwhelms the Italian health care system. This kind of rationing is arguably a feature — not a bug — of socialized medicine.
Indeed, former Vice President Joe Biden — the ostensible moderate in the Democratic race — selected a coronavirus advisor who urged the elderly to avoid getting flu shots or vaccines and to just let themselves die.
These kinds of arguments illustrate just how dangerous socialized medicine schemes like Medicare for All truly are. Not only do they not work, but they impose a zero-sum view of health care services that is naturally prone to rationing. Bernie and AOC could not be more wrong.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.