Should we bet the farm on Medicare for All?

In a Wall Street Journal commentary piece, Simon Johnson, professor of entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and informal adviser to the Elizabeth Warren campaign, argues that Warren's Medicare for All plan would "be a boon to all businesses, and especially to entrepreneurs."

As an Oxford-educated British-American economist, he must surely be aware of the endemic problems of the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS).  Founded in 1946, the NHS struggles to service a population pushing 67 million people.  That's about one fifth the population of the United States, now pushing 330 million people.  As health care costs approach 20% of GDP, embarking upon full nationalization would constitute a monumental and irreversible task.

Mr. Johnson criticizes Republican efforts to make health care more competitive without acknowledging that the GOP has so far been unable to change the laws to allow health insurance companies to provide service across state lines, or to provide tax credits for individuals to apply to health care plans of their choice, or to permit individuals to transfer their coverage as they change jobs.  Mr. Johnson's main points center onn the high costs of health care to businesses and society and how nationalization of health care would "cut costs by reducing inefficiency, eliminating predatory pricing (for example, for prescription drugs), and using the purchasing power of a single-payer system."  No mention of how such "efficiencies" would affect medical innovation, nor any mention of the specter of rationing by virtue of long and potentially deadly waits for expensive procedures, or the denial of procedures for those deemed too old and therefore no longer useful to society. 

The article trumpets the blessings of Medicare for All with an audacious exuberance.  True, we don't have universal health care, but we also don't have a regressive 21% VAT on every purchase of goods and services, on top of crushing taxes on anyone who works for a living.  I don't mean to make an unfair comparison, but I cannot help but be reminded of another MIT professor of economics, Mr. Jonathon Gruber, AKA an "Obamacare architect," caught on video kibitzing with a few cognoscenti about the intelligence of the common man.  Are we ready to flip a switch and turn complete dominion over our bodies to the federal government?  Are we willing to abdicate the millions of personal health care decisions we make on a daily basis and turn it all over to a few masterminds in Washington and academia?

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