As much as I hate to say it, presidential candidate Joe Biden is right, “Coronavirus has no political affiliation.” However, that doesn’t mean that members of both parties won’t try to use this public-health crisis to their advantage and to further push their agenda.
For the left, and in particular, the barely making it presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, this means it is being used to push for socialism or at least socialized medicine. One of Sanders’ most widely known ideas is ‘Medicare for All,’ which would allow the government control of the entire healthcare industry and give every American and even some immigrants to “free” medical care.
According to Sanders, our current private insurance plans are the reason why America has found herself so “unprepared” for COVID-19. He told the debate audience on Sunday, “One of the reasons we are unprepared is we don’t have a system. We’ve got thousands of private insurance plans. That is not a system.”
So let’s just imagine for second that I would even consider giving into socialized medicine in the US. To do so, we must think about what that would look like. Oh’ wait. We don’t really even have to do that because several other nations around the world already employ this type of medical system.
For example, one only has to look as far as Italy to understand how this would work and what it would look like for a pandemic such as the coronavirus.
Italy, as you well know, is currently one of the worst affected nations by the spreading virus. But surely Bernie’s beloved socialized medicine is saving the country, right?
Wrong. in fact, it seems to only be making matters worse.
The New York Times Jason Horowitz published an article on Thursday describing the medical conditions in the Lombardy region, one of Italy’s most wealthy areas.
He wrote, “The mayor of one town complained that doctors were forced to decide not to treat the very old, leaving them to die. In another tow, 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.”
Horowitz continued, saying, “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.”
The government-controlled healthcare system is rationing resources, and because of a shortage in doctors and staffing, forcing other nurses and doctors out of retirement. It has been reported that some people cannot even get the government to pick up the bodies of their recently departed loved ones. And then, of course, there are long wait times, high taxes, and low quality of care issues.
Now, let’s take a look at a nation without socialized medicine and see how they are coping.
South Korea has a similar population size as Italy but has a hybrid healthcare system somewhat similar to ours. In South Korea, Matthew Tanous of the Mises Institute reports, “Care is provided by a set of hospitals that are 94 percent privately owned, with a fee-for-service model and no direct government subsidies. Many of these hospitals are run by charitable foundations or private universities.”
In addition, Tanous notes that “South Korea has 10 hospital beds per 1,000 people, more than twice the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average.” This is also three times as many as Italy’s 3.4 beds per capita. He adds, “These private hospitals also charge significantly less” (between 30-85 percent less to be exact).
Tanous says the differences “portray a situation made far worse by reliance on government-centralized healthcare that manages costs by de facto price rationing rather than a free market system.”
And he’s right. Can you imagine the same the government who controls our overcrowded and understaffed Department of Motor Vehicles to suddenly take charge of how and when you receive your healthcare?
The very idea is terrifying.
Once again, I’m going to agree with Biden, “With all due respect for Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system in Italy. It has nothing to do with Medicare for all. That would not solve the problem at all.”
However, a free and capitalist market just might.