The Disaster of ‘Medicare for All’

Stethoscope on a printed sheet of paper

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, recently made headlines for criticizing the “Medicare for all” proposal popular among Democratic presidential candidates. In an interview with Vice, Reid said that the proposal would be problematic in the 2020 election. “How are you going to get it passed?” he asked.

But Reid’s sensibility isn’t shared by the Democratic electorate. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll out this week found that nearly two-thirds of Democratic primary voters would be more likely to support a presidential candidate who favors “Medicare for all” than one who wants to build on the Affordable Care Act.

This is a mistake. The high costs and low-quality care that accompany “Medicare for all” are unlikely to be popular with general election voters.

“Medicare for all” would reduce access to care, even as it mandates that all Americans submit to government-sponsored insurance coverage. It envisions paying doctors and hospitals at Medicare’s current rates, which are estimated to be about 40% lower than those paid by private insurance. Right now, nearly one-quarter of America’s rural hospitals are at high risk of closing due to financial problems. If hospitals like these are forced to take a 40% cut, many will be forced to close. Doctors, facing a similar pay cut, will likely retire early.

This would surely create a massive shortage.

Giving everyone ostensibly “free” health care would also lead to new demand for care. Combine hospital closures and physician retirements with increased demand, and “patients might face increased wait times and reduced access to care,” as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office puts it.

Just look at the extraordinary wait times in Canada, whose system bans private coverage for anything medically necessary and bears a close resemblance to “Medicare for all.” Patients wait a median of 19.8 weeks to receive treatment by a specialist after referral from a general practitioner. In 2018, the average Canadian family of four paid up to $13,311 in taxes for their supposedly “free” healthcare system.

Senator Reid isn’t the only prominent Democrat to express skepticism about “Medicare for all.” David Axelrod, former senior White House adviser for President Obama, recently argued that the plan wouldn’t pass even if Democrats take both chambers of Congress, as well as the White House.

“Americans don’t generally want to destroy the private health care system,” Axelrod said. Will Democrats heed the counsel of two of their more successful political hands? Only time will tell.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care (Encounter). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.


  1. The only reason people say the like the idea of medicare for all is that the only thing they are told is you get free healthcare. They don’t get told that the only way it will work is by massively raising everyone’s taxes. We are told about all the EU countries that have universal healthcare of one kind or another and how great it is. What they don’t tell us is the tax rate in those countries runs from 50% to 80%. What that boils down to is if you make 100k and they charge 70% tax rate you will only have 30k for your house payment car payment insurance food and everything else you need to spend money on. They also don’t tell you is that now most drs refuse to take medicare patients because they get paid so little for them. what do you think will happen when that is all they can get? What you will get if this is passed is long wait lines and lousy service. The only ones that will benefit from this idea is the poor that don’t pay any taxes in the first place and even they will have the long wait times and bad service

    • And the politicians will benefit because we all know they won’t have to be a part of it.

      • Boy is THAT ever the TRUTH!!!! No politicians in it – and the rest of us will be nothing but numbers and statistics!!!! Friend DIED in the UK, thanx to their system. She had an aneurysm diagnosed, the powers-that-are were deciding whether she DESERVED to have it fixed – she died in her husband’s ards one night!!! THANK YOU socialized medicine!!!!!

        • Hard to know the full story in the UK – there is growing recognition of something called futility of treatment and we all need to accept this. There is never enough money to provide unlimited health care to everyone on demand, regardless of outcomes. There may have been co-factors in this UK situation you don’t know, and yes, it may have been medically prudent to stop treatment. Just throwing procedures and money at a patient is not health care. No matter how satisfying it may feel to those outside of the actual situation making third hand reports.

  2. Seems pretty simple to me——————-
    Join the ” RECALL GAVIN NEWSOM ” Group on FB, the ONLY REAL Recall program . They are about to start circulating petitions again for signatures . We can do this easily if we pull together. There are several others as well to be removed . Have a look for yourself ….
    From the sword of ———————

  3. I am on Medicare and I hate it. It is myth to claim seniors love Medicare. It is a medical industrial complex cash cow treating primarily the worried well, leading to massive over-testing and over-treating the worried well, with up to 8 medications per senior. Way too much is wasted in the last 6 months of life. A reasonably healthy senior who just needs some common sense health nudging quickly becomes a basket of metrics of no purpose, meaning or efficacy. Save Medicare dollars for trauma and the known frank diseases that have proven outcomes when applying any sort of medical intervention. Opening the door to Medicare for All is the same as opening our borders to anyone who wants to come – no purpose, no value and not enough money for any proven benefit. Medicare needs to be reigned in; not expanded. There is plenty of history now to see what the cost:benefit ratio has been for these past decades of “free health care” for seniors. I suspect the final outcome will be confirmation of iatrogenacy, with no material overall benefit. In the details and the specifics yes, but overall billions of dollars down the drain and into the health industry union pockets..

  4. The only way Medicare works for seniors is when they are savy enough to know they must obtain SECONDARY insurance to Medicare coverage, or they will NOT receive advantageous medical care by qualified physicians.
    A knowledgeable health insurance broker that deals in allhealth insurance companies is whom seniors need to contact as soon as they are of Medicare age. However, no one tells a senior that!

  5. Harry Reid, Harry Reid, say!, wasn’t he the fella who insisted that the badly needed expended radioactive materials depository that was Federally approved, to be built in the base of a mountain north of Las Vegas,be built with prevailing wage( What the hell it’s only taxpayer money,and these union boy’s need the work) And the day before it was to be opened(after 15 billion had been poured into the hole.) Ol’ Harry decided that the people of Las Vegas, Nevada didn’t want any part of radioactive waste being that close to them (50 miles). And so there it sits, a veritable monument to the rape of the taxpayers, orchestrated by none other than Ol’ Harry. If this doesn’t just scream term limits, nothing does. Ask all the folks living close to all the buried radioactive waste at the dismantled nuclear reactors at San Onofre their unvarnished opinion of these events.

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