Wednesday 18 March 2020

Coronavirus Results in Explosion of Support for Socialized Medicine But It Would Only Make Things Worse

For those who believe in never letting a good crisis go to waste, coronavirus would sadly be a fantastic one.
America is currently in a state of panic, one that isn’t easily brushed off with claims of overreaction. Workers aren’t getting paid. Business is at a standstill. The shelves have been denuded of products — especially toilet paper, oddly enough, for a disease which affects the upper respiratory system.
At the last Democratic debate for the foreseeable future on Sunday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign more or less hinges now on a long-shot hope that the American people, having undergone a few topsy-turvy weeks, suddenly decide that his revolution — which includes government taking over the health care industry — is a good idea.
“One of the reasons we are unprepared is we don’t have a system,” Sanders told the debate audience. “We’ve got thousands of private insurance plans. That is not a system.”
According to a new Morning Consult poll, that line of thinking might resonate with Democratic voters right now.
The tracking poll, taken on Thursday and Friday and released Sunday, showed almost 60 percent of Democrats were more supportive of socialized medicine than they were before the COVID-19 outbreak. The poll was conducted online among 2,201 adults with a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
Asked whether “the coronavirus outbreak made you more or less likely to support universal health care proposals, where all Americans would get their health insurance from the government,” 39 percent of Democrats said it had made them much more likely to support the plan, with 20 percent saying they were somewhat more likely to support it.
Twenty-nine percent of Democrats were unchanged in their view. Only 1 percent said it made them somewhat less likely to support the plan and 3 percent said it made them much less likely. Another 9 percent said they didn’t know.
More problematic was the 20 percent of independents who said it made them much more likely to support a universal health care program and 14 percent who said it made them somewhat more likely. Only 2 and 7 percent were somewhat and much less likely to support it in the face of COVID-19, respectively.
The problem is that given the areas most affected by the coronavirus outbreak, there’s no evidence that socialized medicine is a good idea — and plenty of evidence it’s not a good one.
It’s rare that I turn to one Joseph Robinette Biden as the voice of reason, but he was (relatively) so in Sunday’s debate: “With all due respect to ‘Medicare for all,'” his riposte to Sanders went, “you have a single-payer system in Italy. It doesn’t work there.”
“It has nothing to do with ‘Medicare for all.’ That would not solve the problem at all.”
BIDEN: "With all due respect for Medicare for all, you have a single payer system in Italy. It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for all. That would not solve the problem at all."
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It’s not just Italy, either. Spain, one of the new epicenters of the epidemic, also has a universal health care system. While they have a parallel private system, that’s been commandeered by the government in the wake of the crisis.
Spain’s system is expected to creak under the demands coronavirus places upon it. Italy’s already has.
Take this description of the situation in Italy’s Lombardy region by The New York Times’ Jason Horowitz, published on Thursday:
The mayor of one town complained that doctors were forced to decide not to treat the very old, leaving them to die. In another town, patients with coronavirus-caused pneumonia were being sent home. Elsewhere, a nurse collapsed with her mask on, her photograph becoming a symbol of overwhelmed medical staff.
In less than three weeks, the coronavirus has overloaded the health care system all over northern Italy. It has turned the hard hit Lombardy region into a grim glimpse of what awaits countries if they cannot slow the spread of the virus and ‘‘flatten the curve’’ of new cases — allowing the sick to be treated without swamping the capacity of hospitals.
If not, even hospitals in developed countries with the world’s best health care risk becoming triage wards, forcing ordinary doctors and nurses to make extraordinary decisions about who may live and who may die. Wealthy northern Italy is facing a version of that nightmare already.
Rationing and poor central decision-making, two central features of government-run systems, are clearly seen in Italy’s response to the virus.
In China, with a public-private health care system that isn’t universal only because Beijing lacks the resources to make it so, we’ve already seen the limitations of that system, too. Their government’s decisions are, in large part, responsible for the spread of the virus, too.
If our system is imperfect, it’s not because of a paucity of government intervention. Joe Biden is (I still can’t believe I’m saying these words) exactly right.
Is what we really needed over the past days and weeks a system in the expert hands of the people who run the Department of Motor Vehicles, a model of understaffing and underwhelming service? Are we to trust the people at the Centers for Disease Control, who botched their coronavirus test and squelched private testers who already had a solution in January?
Would we be to understand, further, that the reason Italy is now the nation outside of China with the most deaths from the virus is because Italy’s universal health care system isn’t universal-y enough? This is your model for what “Medicare for all” would look like, America. It’s no different.
Meanwhile, private industry is the one studying the virus. They’re the ones producing test kits. They’re the ones manufacturing medicines.
And yet, in a time of atomized existential dread across this nation, what we see are Democrats and moderates who are more willing, thanks to COVID-19, to hand it all over to the government. Mr. and Mrs. America, turn in your private insurance card. Don’t worry — if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.
At the very least, there’s no evidence that a universal health care scheme would have done a better job. It likely would have made things worse.
There’s the practical matter of having a virus occur during what will inevitably be a long and difficult switchover to a single-payer system. At another level, the system would lead to shared scarcity and the kind of mismanagement endemic to central planning.

In short, if Democrats are able to make sure this good crisis doesn’t go to waste, there’s a good chance it’ll cause another crisis in the not-too-distant future.

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