New Jersey Senator Cory Booker claims Medicare for All would “save lives.” Vermont’s own Senator Bernie Sanders promises it would end “the disgrace of tens of thousands of Americans dying every year from preventable deaths.”
But a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds little evidence to support those assertions. The authors examined people who gained government health coverage in recent years and found no “statistically significant pattern of results consistent with . . . mortality changes.”
In other words, abolishing private insurance and forcing everyone into a government health plan — as Medicare for All’s proponents advocate — wouldn’t necessarily improve patients’ health.
It would, however, be an excellent way to incinerate trillions of taxpayer dollars.
The researchers analyzed Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which allowed states to extend Medicaid coverage to people in households with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty line. Thirty-six states and Washington, D.C. opted to do so. Some 12 million people gained coverage through Medicaid this year thanks to the expansion. As of the end of 2018, nearly 66 million people were enrolled in Medicaid nationwide.
Since 14 states didn’t expand the program, researchers had the chance to compare differences in mortality between the expansion and non-expansion states while controlling for other variables.
If giving people government health insurance actually leads to improved health outcomes, states that expanded Medicaid should have seen a measurable decrease in mortality rates. But they didn’t.
This isn’t the first study to poke holes in the supposed link between government health insurance and improved health outcomes.
Another study looked at a Medicaid expansion scheme in Oregon that predated Obamacare. In 2008, Oregon used a lottery to determine who would be able to enroll. Researchers analyzed the health outcomes of 6,400 people who won the lottery and gained Medicaid coverage compared to 5,800 who remained uninsured.
The study concluded the Medicaid beneficiaries showed “no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes in the first two years.”
In some cases, Medicaid coverage seemingly yields worse health outcomes. A 2010 study conducted by researchers at the University of Virginia looked at nearly 900,000 major surgeries between 2003 and 2007. Patients with Medicaid coverage were 13% more likely to die after surgery than uninsured patients.
Shoving everyone into a Medicare for All plan with no premiums or cost-sharing would greatly increase the demand for health care. People would visit the doctor’s office for all of their medical issues — no matter how minor. That would overwhelm the medical system, delay care, and lead to worse health outcomes.
For proof, look at our neighbors to the north. Canada’s single-payer system offers care free at the point of service — and is the model for Senator Sanders’s bid for Medicare for All.
Canadian patients wait months for care. In 2018, they idled a median of 19.8 weeks for specialist treatment after obtaining a referral from a general practitioner.
Many Canadians are fed up. More than 217,000 Canadians sought health care outside the country in 2017, according to a policy brief from secondstreet.org, a Canadian think tank.
Senators Booker and Sanders are selling Medicare for All as a way to save lives and boost the quality of American health care. But the evidence just doesn’t support that assertion.
If Americans fall for these empty promises, they’ll wind up paying trillions of dollars for shoddy care.