Warren’s “Medicare for All” isn’t progressive it’s conservative (the wrong kind)
By Michael Ostrolenk, transpartisan social entrepreneur
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is among the few contenders who qualified for the next round of debates. She is also one of the most vocal candidates in support of expanding Medicare for All programs.
Progressive as expansion may appear on face value, the reality is that this type of health care reform preserves the very same power structures Warren claim to oppose, making her plan conservative by nature, and not progressive at all.
Bold as this assertion may sound, bear in mind that by calling these policies “conservative,” I am not meaning to use this term in the modern sense of the world. I do not mean to construe that Warren or Sanders are somehow “classically liberal” and support “laissez faire” economic policies. This is most certainly not the case.
Instead, I mean to use “conservative” in the pre-classical liberal sense, in which subscribers to this ideology seek to maintain the status quo and further concentrate power to a select few.
This is exactly what Medicare for All would do.
A primary tenet of Warren’s presidential platform has been her Medicare for All expansion plan.
While this initially made her a party favorite, in the aftermath of the October 8th debates, her lead in the polls dropped 14 points– a decline attributed, at least in part, to the release of her financing plan to fund the expansion.
Instead of moving immediately to a Medicare for All system, Warren’s financing plan takes incremental steps, eventually reaching the end goal in the third year of her presidency.
Her plan was not well received by proponents of single-payer health care, who question Warren’s commitment to progressive causes.
How long Warren’s plan takes to achieve a single-payer system should not concern progressive voters, instead, they should be wary of what this plan would do and who it would benefit.
To be sure, American patients do not stand to gain the most from the expansion of Medicare l and the ultimate goal of a single-payer system.
Instead, under this health care model, a cohort of special interest groups would be responsible for determining what specific medical services and care patients are able to receive. This tips the scales of power in favor of those already in control.
By centralizing health care, Warren’s plan unites government bureaucracies with powerful special interest groups–a most dangerous alliance.
Instead of patients having more control over their care and more coverage options at their disposal, as is often promised, Warren’s plan would further empower already powerful elites. This would give a select few the power to decide not only what will be universally covered, but also what kind of services are considered to be “health care” at all.
This does nothing to empower individual patients and everything to enhance the control bureaucrats and corporations have on our health care options, perpetuating our current predicament.
In this instance, what is deemed appropriate treatment for specific disorders and diseases will be decided from on high. This leaves relevant parties out of the decision-making process and prevents doctors from adequately serving their patients.
Imagine seeking a specific treatment only to be told that the services you seek have not been approved by those in control. Once a single-payer system, with one central authority determining what care can be received, is ultimately achieved, patients will lose their autonomy over treatment options.
With universal health care being the only game in town, patients will have nowhere else to turn.
This might seem like an over exaggeration or a cheap scare tactic. But this has become a very real scenario on the local level in instances where governments have joined with private entities to determine which treatments are allowed to be administered.
Earlier this year, cancer patients in Michigan were prevented from receiving the revolutionary breakthrough therapy, CAR-T after the state’s certificate-of-need board set new regulations that restricted access to this new, lifesaving treatment.
The state legislature acted quickly and intervened to repeal these restrictions, but eight weeks went by in which cancer patients were unable to receive this new therapy. When your life is on the line, time is of the essence.
Imagine how much worse the situation would have been if this limitation was set at the federal level with no immediate recourse for patients.
When we concentrate power over health care, innovation is stymied and patient choice is destroyed.
Expanding Medicare would also force providers to adopt a one size fits all approach to treatment, instead of recognizing the bio-individuality of each patient. This will inhibit doctors from understanding how unique lifestyle choices contribute to specific disorders and diseases. This is not only ineffective, but counter-effective for symptom management and the optimization of human health and wellbeing.
Medicare expansion and universal health care run by the government are not groundbreaking progressive approaches. They are examples of conservatism of the worst kind, which seeks to maintain the status quo at the expense of American citizens.
This principle is applicable not only to health care, but to free college proposals for all as well.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has campaigned on the promise of making college free for students. But this plan would entrench the system as it is today, ignoring individual needs and favoring special interests and government entities–who would decide which programs will be funded.
This, once again, concentrates power allowing a select few to determine who can teach, what they can teach, and how they can teach. This is by nature anti-progressive as it perpetuates current authority structures.
Progressives should recognize that while they fear concentration of power in the private sector–and they are right to do so–concentrating power in the hands of the state is equally, if not more harmful.
Progressives should oppose all forms of concentrated power – whether it comes from the private sector or public. They should be wary of power structures that inhibit individuals, families and communities from functioning freely–whether legally at the hand of the state, economically in business space, or cultural/socially.
Michael D. Ostrolenk, a social entrepreneur, is a leading expert in the field of transpartisan public policy. He has successfully convened policy initiatives in the areas of transparency, privacy, defense, foreign policy and national security.