By Jon Dougherty
There is little that animates conservatives in Congress — and tens of millions of Americans around the country — than the subject of healthcare.
Nearly a decade after Democrats forced Obamacare on the nation, there is little enviable about the American healthcare system other than to say it is one of the most advanced in the world.
But it remains ghastly expensive, and unnecessarily so; nothing about Obamacare has lowered costs, improved access, or widened coverage.
Now, the growing socialist faction of the Democratic Party wants to double down on government healthcare interference and control with a scheme called “Medicare for All,” which is full-on socialist healthcare in the vein of Britain’s National Health Service, which is failing, as we reported Saturday.
The Daily Signal‘s Rob Bluey spoke to three members of Congress — all of whom are Republicans, granted, but all of whom are also licensed medical doctors who have practiced within the Obamacare framework and still practice. Not only do they have experience dealing with the ‘Affordable Care Act,’ they’ve had to deal with the Medicare as well — as it isÂ now, which is anything but easy or efficient.
Bluey sat down with Reps. Scott DesJarlais, Paul Gosar, and Andy Harris to talk Medicare for All and solutions. Here are snippets of those interviews:
Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.:Â The Medicare for All plan that was announced a couple weeks by my Democrat colleagues, over 100 of them, really will result in care for none. Thatâ€™s the bottom line.
You canâ€™t offer free care to everyone and expect anything but rationing to be the result. The costs are huge. We already have a trillion-dollar deficit in federal government spending. To add more to it will result in rationing.
When you dissect this plan piece by piece, including the elimination of all private insurance, not even socialized medicine in England has that. We go well beyond the socialized medical schemes of Europe in the Medicare for All plan. Itâ€™s just going to be a nonstarter.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.:Â When I think of Medicare for All, I think, â€œWhat can you compare that to? What would it be like?â€
I think right now, a system that everybody knows and is aware of is the VA system. The VA system, in a way, is similar for the veterans. The biggest complaint you hear most times out of the VA system is long wait times or sometimes poor access to specialists. Can you just imagine what it would be like if you turned the whole country into a system right now that we canâ€™t handle on a smaller scale?
I think that the relationship with providers would be diminished because access would be inferior. Right now, if you go to a VA and you canâ€™t be seen within a reasonable amount of time at that VA, youâ€™re farmed out to a specialist in the area. Often times thatâ€™s dubious too because specialists sometimes are reluctant to take patients because the payer system is so poor. You find it harder and harder to get access to these specialists.
Now for some solutions.
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.:Â The thing about it, when they say itâ€™s free, itâ€™s always popular, but when they actually find out how much their taxes are going to be raised, it drops dramatically, in the 30 percent approval aspect. Thatâ€™s the key here is that nothing is free.
But, thereâ€™s alternatives here. Once again, how about market-driven applications that we havenâ€™t seen since 1964? Making insurance compete for the marketplace. Taking away the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust exemptions so that they compete not only for your business, but for the doctorâ€™s provisions? All these things can be revolutionized and who knows what can actually happen.
First of all, dentistry never took onto Medicare. It walked away from the Medicare discussions in the 1960s. Therefore, the same dollar you spent in the 1970s, is basically the same dollar you spent today in dentistry with inflationary only.
Medicineâ€™s nowhere close to that because whatâ€™s happened is thereâ€™s been cost shifting. What the government hasnâ€™t covered, somebody else has had to pick up. Thatâ€™s why you got problems. It is, in essence, a Ponzi scheme where youâ€™re flushing one group of people paying for the services of somebody elseâ€™s.
Thatâ€™s why I keep coming back to market forces. How about getting everybody broken down so theyâ€™re competing for the marketplace so that people are patient-focused, patient-friendly, patient-centered, and have the insurance industry actually compete for that marketplace?
Itâ€™s amazing what actually happens. You see lower premiums, lower drug prices, lower doctor and hospital visits. It empowers people to create new ideas. Making a market-driven solution is actually beneficial.
DesJarlais:Â Well, again, I think access is the big thing. There just is not enough to go around. When you consider that Medicare for All would eliminate what over half the country realizes now in an employer-based plan, and most people, despite all the horrors weâ€™ve heard about Obamacare, which is really bad, get their insurance through their employer. It would change that and eliminate private insurance altogether. People would be left with what the government tells them they can have.
That was one of the biggest problems with Obamacare, that it mandated the type of the health care you could have, mandated what you had to pay for. People were paying for things that were more expensive than they needed. That left a lot of people on the sidelines or with policies that they couldnâ€™t afford, or, in the case if they could afford, they couldnâ€™t go to see the doctor because the deductibles and copays.
I think that it really created a struggle among a certain group of people in the country that didnâ€™t have employer-covered health care, werenâ€™t on Medicare, or werenâ€™t on Medicaid. It really picked on a small group who had to disproportionately pay, as Dr. Gosar said.
Dr. HarrisÂ really drills down on what Medicare currently is and what it would morph into if Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or one of the other far-Left radical Democrats manage to force through Medicare for all:
Harris:Â I was an anesthesiologist. Still am. I work with specialists, mostly specialists. I didnâ€™t work with primary care doctors in the operating room.
I will tell you, under the current Medicare program, you already have problems having access to specialists because the payment rates are low. The fact of the matter is, when the government determines a payment rate, itâ€™s going to determine a low payment rate. Youâ€™re not going to have physicians that are going to be willing to deal with it.
My district is over half rural. Itâ€™s very hard to find a specialist who will see a Medicare patient without getting in line to see it. Thatâ€™s not what Americans expect. Medicare for All is not patient-driven, itâ€™s bureaucrat-driven. Itâ€™s going to be some bureaucrat deciding what you need and how to deliver care in your community. It doesnâ€™t work.
Youâ€™ve got to give the patients choice, give them not a one-size-fits-all insurance policy like ACA did. Let them buy an insurance policy that fits them, fits their families. If youâ€™re young and healthy, you might choose a catastrophic policy with a medical savings account or health savings account. Give people more options and let the marketplace work.
There’s more, including a podcast of the entire 30-minute interview, here.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10
Never miss a story! Sign up for our daily email newsletter â€”Â Click here!