Sanders's 'Medicare for All' Plan Draws Criticism From Health Care Advocates, Experts, Lawmakers

Critics say plan would eliminate choice, burden taxpayers, reduce innovation

Sen. Bernie Sanders / Getty Images
September 13, 2017

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) plans to unveil his "Medicare for All" plan today, which is drawing criticism from those who say a single-payer system would eliminate choice and put more burdens on hardworking taxpayers.

"Instead of wasting hundreds of billions of dollars trying to administer an enormously complicated system of hundreds of separate insurance plans, there would be one insurance plan for the American people with one single payer," a summary of the bill explains.

David Merritt, executive vice president at America's Health Insurance Plans, is criticizing the measure, saying that a government-controlled health care system can't work.

"Whether it’s called single payer or Medicare for All, government-controlled health care cannot work," Merritt said. "It will eliminate choice, undermine quality, put a chill on medical innovation, and place an even heavier burden on hardworking taxpayers."

"The most effective way to ensure affordable care and coverage is to strengthen the private market’s ability to serve the American people, whether it’s building upon private plans serving nearly 180 million people who get their coverage through their employer or the tens of millions who depend on private plans that partner with public programs," he said.

Merritt says every American deserves high-quality care and affordable coverage but more needs to be done to rein in increasing health care costs.

"Everyone—including doctors, health plans, patients, and government—must come together to find solutions that deliver real results," he said. "Let’s build on proven solutions that work—not theoretical, one-size-fits-all approaches that don’t. Proven solutions like value-based care; new tools, technology, and treatments driven by data; social services that coordinate around patients; market competition that drives down costs; community partnerships between the private sector and public programs; and more effective approaches to treat chronic illnesses."

A senior research fellow in health care policy at the Mercatus Center, Robert Graboyes says Medicare hasn’t been more efficient than private insurers, and its structure contributes to high health care costs: "Contrary to single-payer folklore, Medicare is not more administratively efficient than private insurers. Nor is the agency competent at holding down costs—and congressional attempts to force cost-cutting have failed miserably."

"America’s high ratio of health care spending to GDP results from Americans’ low saving rates and high accumulated wealth—not the particulars of our payment system," Graboyes said. "That aside, Medicare’s institutional structure contributes massively to our runaway health care costs."

In addition to health care advocates and experts, not all Democrat lawmakers are supporting Sanders's single-payer measure. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) has declined to back his colleague’s proposal and Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) has not yet signed off on the bill.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.V.) said he was skeptical of the plan and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) said the price of single payer is enormous.

The Republican National Committee has launched a video ahead of Sanders's proposal, which outlines the failures of a single-payer system.

"Bernie Sanders’s single-payer proposal isn’t realistic, and with a $32 trillion price-tag, it certainly isn’t affordable," said RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. "In fact, even Nancy Pelosi refuses to endorse the legislation and my DNC counterpart, Tom Perez, said the only way to pay for it is by imposing a massive tax increase on every American."

"The Democrats’ latest attempt at a government takeover of our health care system will cost too much, reduce the quality of care, and be a logistical nightmare for all," she said.

Published under: Bernie Sanders , Medicare