Can You See Any Doctor Under Medicare for All?

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Supporters of Medicare for All—a government-run, single-payer health care system that would actually end the current Medicare program—claim patients would be able to see any doctor they choose.
 
One might put it this way: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” (Raise your hand if you’ve heard that one before.)
 
A recent article in Common Dreams claims Medicare for All (M4A) support rises from 35 percent to 52 percent when voters are told, “And under Medicare for All you would always have healthcare, even if you are fired or switch jobs—and you would be able to go to any doctor you want.” (emphasis added)
 
Yes, the vast majority of doctors currently take Medicare patients—the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services lists only about 25,000 doctors who have opted out of Medicare—but that’s not the whole story.
 
Tens of thousands of physicians limit the number of Medicare patients in their practice. And many of those slots are taken by their privately insured patients who turn 65 and join Medicare.
 
One reason for the self-imposed limits is Medicare pays doctors about 80 percent of what private health insurance pays, and so physician practices use their higher-paying privately insured patients to cross-subsidize their lower-paying Medicare patients.
 
And the situation is much worse for low-income patients with Medicaid, which pays on average only 66 percent of the already low Medicare rates.
 
Under Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, physicians would be reimbursed closer to Medicaid rates. And there would be no cross-subsidy because private insurance would be outlawed.
 
Even so, it’s likely M4A patients could theoretically see any doctor because doctors who want to practice medicine won’t have any choice but to participate in M4A. All “medically necessary” treatments must be paid for by the government. Doctors either practice government medicine, or they won’t practice at all.
 
That change would reduce the number and quality of people interested in medical careers, which would lead to shortages, rationing and waiting lines, as Canadian patients like Inez Rudderham have learned to their peril.
 
The fact is the left never understands—or is never willing to concede—this important distinction: The right to see any doctor is not the same at the right to see a doctor soon.

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