Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 8.12.19

Socialized Medicine: Not What the Doctor Ordered

Monday, August 12, 2019 | Kevin Baird (202-225-3861)

A proposed socialized medicine program run by the Federal Government, which Democrats call Medicare for All, is enjoying time in the spotlight, partly due to its strong support among Democrat presidential candidates and the new majority in the House of Representatives. The House’s bill for socialized medicine enjoys 117 cosponsors as I write this column, over a quarter of the entire House.

If this legislation were ever signed into law, devastating consequences would ensue for health care.

First of all, it does not even pretend to make the same promise President Obama made about Obamacare, that “If you like your plan, you can keep it.” This socialized medicine plan would not let you keep your insurance. That would include the employer-sponsored insurance over 158 million Americans currently have. It would also rule out the private insurance many seniors have through Medicare Advantage.

Instead, everyone would be forced onto government plans with limited options, putting the government now squarely in the middle of the relationship between patient and doctor.

Patients would certainly be made worse off by this intrusion.

So would doctors. Medicare currently pays them rates that are lower than in the private market. A study by the Mercatus Center, affiliated with George Mason University in Virginia, found that Medicare for All would reduce reimbursements for doctors by 40% compared to what they earn from reimbursements by private insurers. Such a severe cut would deter talented people from entering or remaining in the medical profession.

Hospitals would also lose revenue if all their services are reimbursed at Medicare’s current rates, which could make a difference in how many services they offer or even if they are able to remain open at all.

In April, the New York Times ran a story on the harsh fate awaiting many hospitals under Medicare for All:

Some hospitals, especially struggling rural centers, would close virtually overnight, according to policy experts. Others, they say, would try to offset the steep cuts by laying off hundreds of thousands of workers and abandoning lower-paying services like mental health.*

Lee County and Patrick County currently lack hospitals. It is true that they closed without socialized medicine becoming a reality, but if it did, those hospitals would have a more difficult time reopening and the ability of hospitals in some of our other jurisdictions to stay open could be threatened as well.

The universal coverage promised by socialized medicine’s proponents is meaningless if patients have nowhere to go for treatment.

These problems are not hypotheticals. My mother, who is 89 years old, needed ten months to find a primary care doctor who will accept Medicare. Her new doctor made an exception to take her, as he was already treating someone in the family. But when she called earlier in the year, his office had said no to taking new Medicare patients.

Already, some physicians have left the medical field due in part to low Medicare reimbursement rates. They could not sustain their practices at those rates. Medicare for All can’t be a serious solution when Medicare in its present form doesn’t serve all whom it should.

Britain’s National Health Service is often held up by socialized medicine advocates as a model, but one need not look far to find its dire flaws.

When I was studying at Scotland’s University of Edinburgh on a stipend, I stayed in the city’s Tollcross section, a less well-off neighborhood. My apartment was across the hall from an older couple named Finch. Mr. Finch at the time was waiting on heart surgery for a condition diagnosed in February or March, yet the surgery wasn’t going to happen until the following October.

After I returned home, I learned that he had the surgery but died within two years. His family was convinced the long delay between diagnosis and surgery weakened him; they believed he would have survived if he had been treated when diagnosed. In the United States, the same surgery would have happened within a week.

Constituents inform me frequently about their problems with the present health care system, and I recognize that serious reforms are needed. I have worked on them throughout my time in the House of Representatives, and I will not give up my efforts. But we must be wary of the “cure” socialized medicine offers.

I am committed to real health care reform that promotes affordability, access, and choice without diminishing our freedom to make decisions or forcing us to send more of our hard-earned money to Washington.

If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office.  You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405 or my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov.

*“Hospitals Stand to Lose Billions Under ‘Medicare for All,’” New York Times, April 21, 2019

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