The Corner

Health Care

The Blind Ambition of Medicare for All

Helaine Olen thinks that people who say that Medicare for All is impossible to enact are surrendering to a corrupt political system.

More than two-thirds of Americans support Medicare-for-all. This should hardly shock anyone, though it always seems to. But it’s not in the interests of the hospitals, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies and the like to fix our health-care situation — there’s too much money to be made. . . .

The leading Medicare for All proposals would effectively outlaw almost all private health insurance, and support for the idea drops dramatically when that feature is mentioned. A recent Kaiser poll found that 58 percent of respondents opposed Medicare for All if they heard it would eliminate private health insurance companies.

Olen continues:

Once we were the country that passed ambitious legislation such as Social Security and Medicare. We said we would send a man to the moon, and ultimately ended up sending many men and women into space. The difference between then and now isn’t that our national character shifted. It’s that our system became increasingly corrupt and stasis oriented.

If in the 1930s scores of millions of Americans had private pensions that they valued highly but that Social Security would have outlawed, the program would not have been created. Similarly, Medicare and the moon landing did not require people to accept a significant degree of disruption to anything they valued. The reason some political analysts say that Medicare for All is highly unlikely to prevail politically isn’t really that it’s ambitious. It’s the particular nature of the ambition it embodies. We say “you can’t do that” because we are fairly confident that most people don’t want it.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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