Monday, September 3, 2018


Were student members of the American Medical Association smoking something when they flacked a universal health care model at the AMA’s meeting last June?

The most celebrated version of that idea is Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal (aka “Berniecare”). With 40 percent of our physician workforce over the age of 55, it’s estimated that by 2030, we’ll be short anywhere from 40,800 to 104,900 physicians.

Couple those demographics with Berniecare’s dramatic proposed cuts in doctor income and even more doctors will be taking an early retirement. Under Obamacare, you were promised you could keep your doctor. You now realize you couldn’t. With Berniecare, you may not even be able to find one.

Baby boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 people per day. They use a disproportionate amount of medical services relative to the younger, healthy population. With Berniecare offering Americans free care without copays and deductibles, (including free vision, hearing and dental benefits), the young will be accessing available doctors more often. As more young patients dive into the dwindling physician pool to treat minor issues, older and sicker people with critical care needs will be waiting in longer lines.

This nightmare scenario isn’t speculative — it’s precisely the problem that other countries with socialized medicine face every day. Care is “free” upfront (taxes provide the hidden cost), but delayed wait times are extensive.

Mr. Sanders himself has admitted that his “Medicare for All” bill is based on the Canadian health care system. Last year, 1 million Canadian patients waited an average of ten weeks to receive medical treatment. The period of time between an initial appointment and treatment was routinely three months or more.

In addition to much higher taxes, free care is far from being affordable. It’s estimated that patients forfeit more than $1,800 on lost wages due to pain or immobility from long wait times. That added up to $1.9 billion in lost wages in 2017.

The stories out of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service are much the same. The NHS continues to generate wait lists that few in America would be willing to tolerate. The chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, has predicted that in three years, the wait list for care “will grow to 5 million people.” That would be roughly equivalent to 25 million people waiting for a Berniecare doctor in America.

More than just inefficient, Berniecare is unaffordable. A recent Mercatus Center study, backed up by similar findings, found that “Medicare for All” would cost $32.6 trillion over its first 10 years. Even with an estimated need to double all federal business and personal income taxes to pay for the program, there still wouldn’t be sufficient funding. And then of course there would be the pesky issue of finding a few tax dollars to pay for every other program from Social Security to national defense.

To review, imagine this: Berniecare becomes the law of the land just as a massive swath of the population reaches retirement, while the number of physicians available plummet and tax rates skyrocket. At hospitals across America, people will be lining up to receive care we can’t afford from doctors who have retired. People with serious illness or disease will die while waiting in longer lines. All while our $21 trillion national debt continues to increase.

The problem with Berniecare, proposed free lunch, such as free tuition and guaranteed income, is that eventually, someone has to pick up the tab. Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously observed: “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” In this case, there’s more than just money on the line.

• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Co., a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.

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