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Medicare for all or Medicare for none

The latest Democratic proposal for a government takeover of health care just got more expensive. Previous estimates had put the cost of Medicare for All at $32 trillion over ten years. But a recent study by the left-leaning Urban Institute pegs the tab at $34 trillion.

An additional $2 trillion is no small sum. That money represents half the current federal budget, three times what our country spends on our military, and more than the value of all of the goods and services produced in Canada every year. The revised $34 trillion total is another reminder of how unsustainable Medicare for All would be.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Bernie Sanders, has openly acknowledged that only massive middle-class tax increases could pay for what it would require. Costs are not the only concern. The policy would take away Americans’ health-care choices, increase wait times, and limit the potential for future medical innovations.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — has already shown what can happen when the government’s role in health care grows. Prices skyrocketed and people could not keep the plans or doctors they liked. Americans are right to wonder why it would be wise to double down on the mistakes of the past.

Insurance Provided at Work Would End

Proponents of Medicare for All should stop repeating outlandish promises. They should come to the table and engage productively. That is the only way to find a solution that would give more Americans the care they want at the time they need it from the doctors they trust.

Proposals should not throw out what works about America’s health-care system, including what works about Medicare. More than 600,000 Mississippians over the age of 65 rely on Medicare. Medicare for All would immediately take away options like Medicare Advantage, and it would eventually empty the U.S. Treasury. With no money left to spend, Medicare for All would become Medicare for none.

Medicare for All would also make most of the existing private insurance market illegal, taking away coverage from more than 180 million people. A new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 76 percent of participants like the coverage they get on the job. That type of insurance would end if Medicare for All became the law of the land.

The Way Forward

Americans deserve a say in their health-care choices, which are some of the most personal decisions that anyone can make. Given the proper tools and regulatory framework, our citizens are more than capable of picking the best plans to fit their needs.

President Donald Trump has made empowering consumers, lowering costs, and keeping protections for people with preexisting conditions top priorities. His administration has given small businesses the option to join together in associations to negotiate lower prices. It has also granted waivers from some of the Affordable Care Act’s burdensome mandates on insurance exchanges so that states can customize coverage options for their residents’ health needs.

Congress is taking action as well. The Republican Senate recently voted to keep these waivers in place.  I cosponsored legislation to protect existing association health plans and expand their benefits to more than 400,000 uninsured Americans. I also recently introduced the bipartisan CONNECT for Health Act of 2019, which would grow access to telehealth services in rural parts of our country like the Mississippi Delta.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are ready to work with our Democratic colleagues on health care. But Medicare for All is a dangerous distraction. It would prevent positive reforms and could cause devastating results.

Roger Wicker is a U.S. Senator from Mississippi.