No, Dems. Medicare for All wouldn't have made us any more ready for the epidemic

The Daily Caller brings us the results of a recent survey gauging reactions from both Democrats and Republicans to the nation’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic thus far. The poll asked respondents if the recent news would make them more or less likely to support some form of “universal medical coverage” for all Americans, such as Medicare for All or at least a public option like Biden’s “Medicare for all who want it.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, more than half of Democrats said that the COVID-19 epidemic has made them either much more or at least somewhat more likely to support such plans.

More than half of Democrats say the coronavirus outbreak is making them more supportive of universal health care coverage, according to a Morning Consult poll published Sunday.

Universal coverage is gaining steam with moderates and partisans alike as cases of people infected with the virus increase, the poll notes. Meanwhile, 30% of Democrats don’t appear to have changed their position on the issue.

The poll shows that 39% of Democrats are “much more likely” to support universal coverage as they weigh concerns related to coronavirus, or COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China in December. It killed more than 3,000 people in the communist nation as of Sunday.

I suppose this is a natural response for some people, given the way that the WuFlu is on pretty much everyone’s minds (and lips) these days. Anyone with children at home in up to 33 states is suddenly trying to figure out their childcare situation. If you’re currently running low on toilet paper you’ve got a totally different problem in many locations. How can it not be on your mind?

Unfortunately, the idea that having a universal healthcare option on the table would change anything right now is simply more magical thinking. The reason? It’s not a lack of immediate insurance coverage that’s threatening the nation right now. In more “normal” times, if you suddenly came down with a terrible virus and needed prompt attention, you could go to an emergency room and be treated even if you had no insurance. You’d figure out how and when to pay for it later.

But that’s not the situation we’re dealing with if COVID-19 heads for a worst-case scenario. Medicare for All would not have increased the number of available hospital beds, respirators, anti-viral medications and all the rest of the infrastructure required to treat such illnesses. If you show up at the emergency room and every bed is taken and every respirator is in use and every nurse is already working 20 hours per day trying to tend to a flood of patients, the best insurance in the world isn’t going to save you.

Such a universal plan also wouldn’t create more doctors. In fact, it’s arguable that there would be fewer doctors as many of them don’t take Medicare and can’t cover their costs at those rates. We’ve seen increases in the number of doctors moving toward retirement or refusing new Medicare patients ever since Obamacare was implemented. And if there are not enough doctors available to tend to the infected as they arrive, the mortality rate is going to increase. I’m not trying to be deliberately cruel here, but this is just the math underlying the situation.

The candidates are free to debate universal insurance questions as the campaign grinds on. But those questions aren’t going to do anything to address the immediate needs that are emerging. We either need to slow the spread of the virus through “social distancing” or whatever you want to call it so that the current supply of hospital resources isn’t overwhelmed or we have to expand the number of hospital beds and associated resources bigly and rapidly. Perhaps some combination of both. But Medicare for All isn’t going to change a single thing at this point in the story arc.