Lack of Trust in Public Health Authorities Will Impact Debate on Medicare for All | Citizens Against Government Waste

Lack of Trust in Public Health Authorities Will Impact Debate on Medicare for All

The WasteWatcher

The U.S. public health system has a trust problem.  On March 13, 2021, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health released their poll of 1,305 people surveyed between February and March.  The poll found that positive ratings of the public health system dropped from 43 percent to 34 percent from 2009 to 2021; 54 percent have a great deal or quite a lot of trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while 59 percent did in 2009.  Only 37 percent have that level of trust in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The public does trust nurses, healthcare workers, and doctors far more than public health institutions and agencies.

NPR reporter Selena Simmons-Duffin wrote, “The mistrust is not really surprising.  There have been plenty of missteps throughout in the past year, due to everything from political interference, to incomplete information, to confusing messaging.”  For example, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said in a May 11 hearing, “I always considered the CDC to be the gold standard. I don't anymore.”  She pointed out the issues with CDC's guidance on school reopening, mask-wearing, and summer camps as part of the problem.

National Institute of Health Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who during most of the past year has been viewed as the most important and respected representative of the federal government on COVID-19, has more recently been criticized for flip-flopping on a variety of issues, like the severity of the virus or wearing masks.  He has also changed his mind on whether the virus that causes COVID-19 came about naturally or was created in a lab.  He now supports an open investigation to find the cause and said earlier this month, he is “not convinced” that virus originated naturally.  When this idea was first proposed by several members of Congress, public health officials adamantly denied that idea.

It is not only the federal government that has a trust problem.  The poll also shows that state health departments and local health departments have the trust of 41 percent and 44 percent of those polled, respectively.  Harvard Chan School Professor Emeritus Robert Blendon said, “We're in a period of distrust of government in general.  If we substituted the FBI for the CDC, it would not do a lot better.”

This lack of trust in public health has significant implications for the fate of plans for a government takeover of healthcare, like Sen. Bernie Sander’s (I-Vt.) “Medicare for All” plan.  Pacific Research Institute President Sally Pipes wrote in a March 2019 column that most people do not realize what is in Medicare for All and explains why 55 percent of Americans surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll favored such a plan.  But when they were told it eliminated private insurance, the support dropped to 37 percent.  The plan would also cut payments to doctors, ration care, and increase taxes. The only private insurance that would remain is for coverage of benefits that are not provided in Medicare for All, like plastic or laser eye surgery.

But this has not stopped the Democrats from re-introducing Medicare for All in the 116th Congress.  The legislation currently has 115 cosponsors in the House, and they continue to push Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) for a vote on their bill.  Perhaps they hope that enough Americans still do not understand what is in their proposal and they will be able to get it through the Senate.  And while supporters of the legislation like to argue that millions of Americans lost their private insurance in 2020 and that is why the country needs government-run healthcare, that only happened because the federal government shut down the economy as recommended by (now distrusted) public healthcare leaders.  States that reopened and protected the vulnerable fared equally well or better in regard to death rates, and they certainly did better economically.

Furthermore, as Marc Thiessen predicted in a Washington Post April 14, 2020 op-ed, the U.S. private healthcare system left the country better prepared than other countries in delivering critical care.  There are more intensive care hospital beds available then found in socialized medicine countries.  He discussed how government incompetence led to delayed COVID-19 tests and a shortage of equipment that was supposed to be available from the Strategic National Stockpile.  The private sector stepped up and produced what was needed.  As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden said during the last Democratic candidates’ debate, “With all due respect to Medicare-for-all … you have a single-payer system in Italy.  It doesn’t work there.”

Instead, President Biden supports a public option in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, but do not be fooled by the semantics.  His proposal would lead to government-run healthcare as laid out in CAGW’s October 27, 2020 blog, “Bidencare: A Straight Line to Government-Run Healthcare.”

Americans should expect a battle over healthcare reform over the next two years as the progressives are determined to enact this plan as part of their government (socialist) takeover of the country.  Republicans have alternatives to a government-run system, like the Republican Study Committee plan included in its fiscal year 2022 budget proposal, “Reclaiming Our Fiscal Future,” which promises personalized and affordable healthcare.  The Health Policy Consensus Group has proposed the Health Care Choices 20/20 Plan to empower individuals with personalized care that put the doctor and patient in charge.  This idea has gained favorability by several Republican senators.  Both plans work to put the patient more in control of the type of health plan that is best for them and returns regulatory authority back to the states.

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly made healthcare much more personal, and people clearly understand that government bureaucrats cannot be completely trusted to work effectively and efficiently.  Americans trust their doctors far more, and they want more control of their healthcare choices.  The proposal that provides more choice in managing their healthcare, encourages competition to lower prices, spearheads innovation, and does not raise taxes should win the argument.