- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2020

More than 50 leading U.S. economists and professors have signed an open letter warning that the proposed “Medicare for All” plans to place Americans on a government-run system would trigger shortages, degrade quality and discourage medical innovation.

“Americans should have access to the health care they need and have insurance protection for medical expenses they cannot afford,” said the letter released last week. “We, the undersigned economists, believe the proposed Medicare for All plans would lead to shortages throughout the health sector that would restrict access to care, undermine quality, lead to innovation-stifling price controls, and adversely impact the economy.”

The 55 signers include Michael Boskin, who chaired the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush; former Office of Management and Budget director James Miller III, and Chapman University professor Vernon L. Smith, a 2002 Nobel Laureate in economic sciences.

Medicare for All, a form of universal health care, has gained popularity with Democratic voters and candidates, although the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, suggested earlier this month that he would veto any such legislation.

In their letter, the economists said that the nation “does not have a properly functioning market in the health sector due in part to the reimburse-the-supplier insurance model, but the solution is not more and bigger government.”

“The solution is creating a more efficient market for medical care and medical insurance that would restrain costs through competition, improved and transparent information, and consumer incentives rather than through destructive methods such as price controls and limits on private care choices,” they said.

The Coalition Against Socialized Medicine, a free-market group whose members include the American Conservative Union, Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, said the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of encouraging innovation in health care.

“Unfortunately, the stakes now have been put into stark relief as the world faces the grim challenge of the coronavirus,” said coalition executive director Marc Palazzo. “As humanity battles this common threat together, our hopes are pinned to the very innovation that these policies would ultimately destroy.”

Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, Mr. Biden’s only remaining challenger in the primary race, argued at last week’s CNN debate that the COVID-19 pandemic “exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our current healthcare system.”

“We are the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people,” Mr. Sanders said. “We’re spending so much money, and yet we are not even prepared for this pandemic.”

Mr. Biden countered by noting that Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, has universal government-provided health care.

“With all due respect to Medicare for All, you have a single-payer system in Italy. It doesn’t work there,” Mr. Biden said.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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