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EDITORIAL: Bennet rolls out Medicare-X to another collective yawn

Gazette - 2/26/2021

Feb. 26—"Health care is a right, not a privilege."

We've heard this before and we're hearing it again, this time as the first line in Sen. Michael Bennet's new news release about his old idea for fixing health care. We won't dispute the "right" versus "privilege" view, but we will say the "right" to something doesn't make it available.

We can tell people all day long they have a "right" to the latest iPhone, but until supply meets demand, we'll see millions of consumers live without it. That's just the way things work.

Bennet, D-Colo., reintroduced his bill to create Medicare-X with what he calls "my Medicare-X Choice Act." He introduced it this week with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., is also a co-sponsor.

Bennet has attempted this before, and it makes no more sense than it ever has.

The bill would create a public option by expanding the Affordable Care Act. Families, individuals, and small businesses, the senators assure us, could obtain low-cost health insurance through Medicare "to finally cover everyone."

"As we continue to face a devastating pandemic where millions of Americans are uninsured or underinsured, Medicare-X is the best way to cover everyone, reduce health costs, and improve the quality of health insurance for all Americans — including those who've historically suffered the most from poor access to quality coverage and care," Bennet said in his news release.

The devastating pandemic has shown us the problem with health care is, in fact, "care." It is not a crisis of "coverage," which is the only aspect of health care this bill addresses.

Throughout the pandemic, few medical services have turned away patients for lack of insurance or ability to pay out of pocket. That's the way it should be. Save a life first; worry later about the bill.

The pandemic scared politicians, health care professionals, and the general public because we potentially lacked an adequate supply of hospital beds, ventilators, and professionals prepared to treat the disease. We could have cranked out unlimited "free" or "reduced" health care policies, and it would not have created a single new hospital bed or life-support system.

Our health care crisis will never be solved until we find a way to allow the market to provide a surplus of competitive health care. Politicians love to give away insurance, and the recipients too often realize the policies don't get them reasonable access to health care, much less access they can afford.

A flood of easy health care policies puts more demand on a system that struggles to supply the health care everyone needs. When demand on the system grows, we see rationing in the form of long waits for appointments, high deductibles and copays and rejected claims.

We have often discussed health care over the years with Bennet and Hickenlooper, and each has agreed we have a crisis of care more than one of insurance.

We ask them again to try resolving the health care dilemma with a plan that incentivizes a greater supply of health care. Find a way to get more people through medical school. Incentivize investments in new drugs, hospitals, clinics and medical equipment.

Medicare works well because it covers people who have spent their lives paying for it and finally qualify for benefits later in life. Simply handing those same benefits to everyone else will not create adequate health care. It will merely redistribute what we have at the expense of senior citizens.

Republicans have done nothing to fix health care and have barely tried. Democrats control the federal government, and this is yet another chance for the party's leading politicians to solve this problem.

Get it right by solving the real problem and creating a market of abundant and affordable care that is easy to access. Redistributing Medicare and marking it with an "X" won't solve the problem any more than a maze of smoke and mirrors.

The Gazette Editorial Board


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