Sally Pipes on the High Cost of Free Stuff

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Harry Truman once remarked, “Give me a one-handed Economist. All my economists say 'on the one hand...', then 'but on the other…’”

In several states, politicians seem to be guided as if by these elusive one-handed economists in drafting legislation for single-payer healthcare. 

In 2017, California’s state senate managed to pass a bill (still pending) that would force all Californians into a single, state-run health care system, but the state senate’s Appropriations Committee estimated it would cost more than twice the total state budget.

We can’t entirely blame politicians, since a majority of Americans seem to think that single-payer or “Medicare for All” would save them money and ensure access to healthcare.

But as Michael Munger has noted, the middleman – whether the notorious price-gouger or more mundane insurance broker – performs a vital service in a competitive market. Unfortunately, the health care market becomes less competitive with each new government intervention, so it’s no surprise that Americans are tired of the current system.

It’s time for a reality check.

Sally Pipes is the President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and author of several books dissecting the magical thinking that makes unworkable “Medicare for All” proposals so popular. 

The False Promise of Single-Payer Health Care (2018) debunked the main claims made in favor of single payer. In January 2020, her latest book False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All will be released to coincide with what could be one of the most consequential elections in our history, as Democrats promise to remake a sector of the economy that constitutes 20% of total output.

Pipes joined me to review the unfounded claims made by demagogues like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, such as:

  • Single-payer increases quality – By most measures, the  U.S. far outranks Canada and the UK in quality of care, including wait times and rates of recovery from serious illness. There’s a reason Canadians come to the U.S. for procedures. 

  • Single payer saves money - “Between 2001 and 2016, spending by Canada’s provinces on health care shot up 116.4 percent. Costs are growing faster than the rest of the economy,” she writes.

In the book, we also learn that Medicare is the single biggest contributor to the national debt – around $400 billion per year. 

As Cato’s Michael Cannon notes, “The Medicare program is a bonanza of centralized economic planning, special-interest lobbying, pricing errors, perverse incentives, low-quality care, improper payments, and fraud. To paraphrase Lenny Bruce, Medicare is so corrupt, it’s thrilling.”

This is the same program that Bernie Sanders wants to expand into the world’s largest and most generous health care system in the world.

Listen to my interview with Sally to  learn the difference between Medicare for All and the “Public Option,” and why we must stay on guard against so-called moderate proposals that are designed to give way to fully socialized medicine.

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