Peter Morici: Trump must run against Bernie Care & GOP in 2020
President Trump is the victim of his own success. Voters now rank health care above the economy as the top issue for Washington to address, and the president must run against his own party to win in 2020.
American discontent stems from affordability. We pay 75% more for health care through taxes, premiums and out of pocket than do Canadians and Europeans, and face an unconscionable morass to access services.
Market-rigging local cartels are common among hospitals and insurers and physician-specialist groups. Drug manufacturers block competing new drugs and rig prices for generics. And prices for hospitals, drugs and other services are opaque and vary arbitrarily among purchasers. Filling prescriptions and scheduling procedures can require hours of hassle for patients and physicians with benefits managers and insurers.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., promises to sweep that all away with a single-payer system similar to the Canadian and British approaches, but that would require about $3 trillion in new taxes annually, likely including a payroll tax with exemptions for families below the poverty line.
His proposal is mighty slim on how to get doctors to accept Medicare reimbursements or drug companies to stop charging Canadians and Europeans cheap rates and soaking Americans, but the promise of free stuff is a proven winner for Democrats.
Conservatives’ warnings about single-payer systems have data problems, too.
Canadians and Europeans run two types of systems — most relevant for Americans are the Canadian, British, German and Netherlands systems that provide universal coverage. The former two have single-payer frameworks. Whereas the latter have more comprehensive variants of Obamacare with mandatory enrollment in private or nonprofit insurance that feature less bureaucracy, price controls with teeth and insurers that follow national health care policies rather than rationing without much democratic accountability.
Neither a single payer nor an insurance-based approach, which offer consumers many choices, appears superior. The Canadian, British, German and Netherlands systems are much less expensive to run than the U.S. system because national governments set prices and establish frameworks for rationing. In the bargain, patients and doctors suffer much less bureaucracy.
Republicans, with their quaint fondness for health care spending accounts, devolving Medicaid to the states with block grants and free markets, simply have not embraced ideas that address what makes the U.S. system the worst on a value basis — price fixing.
As Americans are so divided and no single approach appears superior, give the states what the federal government now spends — not just federal allotments for Medicaid. Let them set up “Bernie Care” or reform the present system. However, the federal government must take the leadership to curb Big Pharma, benefit managers and insurance company anticompetitive practices in national markets. And empower — and require as a condition for access to federal funds — states attorneys general to crack down on regional hospital and physician cartels.
Without those, eventually frustrated voters will deliver to socialists control of the White House and a working majority in Congress, who will impose a single-payer system that works with the ambience and efficiency of the U.S. Postal Service.