by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
“With all due respect for Medicare for All, you have a single payer system in Italy,” Biden began against Sanders. “It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for All. That would not solve the problem at all.”
Despite the protestations of the Vermont senator, Biden was exactly correct. Italy, the current hotbed of the global pandemic, has exemplified the failings of publicly operated healthcare systems, with government bureaucrats stuck triaging and rationing out care. The Italian crisis illustrates one not taken seriously by Sanders or his supporters: a Western system crippled by a chronic supply shortage, one that no amount of state force or labor can ameliorate.
Pure government incompetence exacerbated Italy’s initial coronavirus crisis, with unfettered migration from China sparking the nation’s initial spike in the pandemic. But Italy’s healthcare system suffers plenty of other systemic factors, like a relative shortage of nurses, that contributed to its inability to decentralize care in a time of catastrophe. Although the United States has massively dropped the ball with regards to testing, patients with different types of health insurance can go to providers from nurses to physicians assistants to specialists to get coverage. …
… Our obviously splintered healthcare system is far from perfect, but the evidence from Italy, at a minimum, does not support the contention that single-payer systems are somehow more capable of fighting a pandemic. So Biden has a point. Promising that healthcare access be equal didn’t save Italy, and in a time of immense demand with little incentive to supply there’s no guarantee a Medicare For All-type system would have saved anyone else.