What I Learned About Medicare for All While on Vacation
Many millennials continue to support socialist policies, including Medicare for All, demonstrating their willingness to ignore history and the world around them. I suspect many millennials couldn’t even find Venezuela on a map, never mind explain why the country’s economy has collapsed into chaos.
However, recently I stumbled on a story that might make sense to many young Americans, and it involves one of their favorite annual events: spring break.
For my daughter’s senior year spring break trip, the group of students chose to go to an “all-inclusive” resort. The deal they purchased boasted all-you-can-eat dining and drinking, including alcohol. At first, it sounded like a great deal, but the feeling didn’t last long.
After we arrived, we discovered that despite the fact there were many dining facilities, only two served breakfast. At the buffet, I couldn’t even manage to chisel the French toast off the bottom of the serving pan — it had clearly been there for several days. At the coffee shop, a nice lady was glad to push the buttons on the espresso machine for visitors and hand them a still-frozen donut. We were happy to see her every morning, but we could have pushed the buttons and picked up the donuts ourselves.
Lunch was not available until 12:30 p.m., and once open, getting a drink took 30 minutes, while food required waiting nearly 45 minutes each time we visited. Usually the entire dining area was staffed by only a single server. One day, inexplicably, a grill on wheels showed up serving lobster tails. A long line instantly formed and the lobster was gone in a flash.
I asked a server if more lobster was on its way. The first answer I received was “no.” The second answer was “15 minutes.” The third answer was “six minutes.” Thirty minutes later, with a long line behind me, more food arrived, and we finally got our lunch.
At dinner, the meat served was quite good — the steakhouse applied an additional surcharge — but the seafood was terrible. And if you found yourself craving food between meal times, good luck. The wait was at least an hour for room service.
We quickly learned that one solution to the service problem was to tip everyone heavily. Big-tippers enjoyed much better service from workers, but only as long as the cash kept coming. Interestingly, once the service issue was handled, our own behavior changed for the worse. Instead of making prudent decisions, we overconsumed, likely driven by the subconscious perception that everything was “free.”
Spring breakers should realize similar problems exist in countries with socialist services like universal health care. In Canada, the average wait for specialist care was 19.8 weeks in 2018. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service currently has a shortage of 100,000 doctors, nurses and staff. Patients often are left waiting in ambulances parked outside of emergency rooms because they are overcrowded. Women in active labor are on occasion even turned away.
Last winter, 50,000 operations were canceled in the United Kingdom because a flu epidemic overloaded the system, and nearly 30,000 Britons died over the course of the year waiting for care.
Like Medicare for All, the all-inclusive “Food and Drink for All” vacation appeared at first to be a dream. The promise is almost irresistible! Just like “equal and universal” health coverage, the “equal and unlimited” food and beverage utopia sounds perfect.
But with both universal health care and all-inclusive vacations, the experience tells a very different story. Without options, people must live at the mercy of one system for service, having no alternatives and no financial leverage. The result? Lines and crowds waiting for service at understaffed facilities. Both systems rely on rationing resources by restricting hours, understaffing facilities and providing an inferior product. And when access to service is finally available, perverse incentives push recipients to grossly overconsume.
In both cases, the solution for many is to provide extra cash out of their own pockets, creating an underground economy, where only those with a lot of wealth have access to good services. This, ironically, leads to the formation of a two-tiered system. Under such schemes, the inequality that socialists continuously rail against gets worse, not better.
The solution to fixing America’s health care system is to increase competition and encourage innovation, not make things worse by making every single American a hostage to the whims of a single service provider. The sooner young people realize that, the better off we’ll all be.
Mike Koriwchak, M.D., is board vice president of Docs 4 Patient Care Foundation and an ear, nose and throat specialist in Atlanta, Georgia.
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