New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this month that he plans to provide government-funded health care to an estimated 600,000 uninsured New Yorkers. Unsurprisingly for a mayor who’s known to prioritize ideology over reality, he’s once again jumped the gun on a fairy tale policy without understanding the costs — or the consequences.
Once fully implemented, Mr. de Blasio believes his plan known as “NYC Care” will cost $100 million a year. However, it’s unclear where this number comes from. Health insurance in New York City is estimated to cost around $5,000 per person. In reality, the average New Yorker uses about $6,000 of health care each year. It doesn’t take more than grade school arithmetic to see that Mr. de Blasio’s proposal, which allocates less than $200 per each uninsured New Yorker, doesn’t work.
Beyond barely making a dent in per-capita health costs, this system would put an increased strain on NYC’s already struggling public hospitals. Just last year, these hospitals were forced to carry out major staff cuts in an attempt make up for a deficit of over $1 billion. As for the remaining hospital employees, under NYC Care they’ll be expected to serve an additional 600,000 patients.
Basic economics tells us that more patients being treated by fewer doctors (who are retiring in alarming numbers) and nurses will result in an increased demand for more hospital staff. However, money for additional hires doesn’t seem to be baked into Mr. de Blasio’s proposed budget. More likely, these hospitals will face staff shortages, especially as more key staff choose to work at one of NYC’s several private hospitals — where they can expect not only reasonable patient loads but also a raise of about $20,000 per year (a nurse at a NYC public hospital makes around $78,000 a year).
While Mr. de Blasio focuses on crafting an unsustainable health care plan for NYC, several other politicians hope to implement a similar government-run system nationwide. Presidential hopefuls, including Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, and New York’s own Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrat, have thrown their hats in the ring for a 2020 presidential nomination. Support for socialized medicine or so-called “Medicare for All” is certain to take center stage in their platforms.
Fortunately, voters don’t need to wait for NYC Care to crash before making a decision on the future of socialized medicine. Both the United Kingdom and Canada serve as examples of how a government takeover of health care means less access and worse quality of care for America.
In England, socialized medicine has resulted in an extreme nurse and doctor shortage. As recently as last summer, the U.K.’s National Health System (NHS) was short 41,722 nurses and 11,576 doctors. When flu season hit last winter, hospital hallways turned into waiting rooms as a result of overcrowding and lack of medical staff. More than 80,000 patients waited on gurneys for hours before being seen by a doctor. The outlook for this year isn’t much better.
Similarly, Canada has created a system where patients do not have to pay for care (these costs translate into higher taxes) but they are expected to wait months before accessing a doctor. On average, last year patients in Canada waited five months between seeing an authorizing doctor to receiving treatment. Last year, more than 1 million Canadians were on a waiting list for a medical procedure.
Mayor de Blasio asserts that socialized medicine is “the kind of thing Democrats should stand for.” No one should stand for that.
• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Co., a public relations firm in Washington, D.C.