An Epidemic Big Enough to Accommodate Everyone’s Wish List

Politicians of both major parties are using COVID-19 to advance their pre-existing policy agendas.

by Jacob Sullum

The United States would be better prepared for the COVID-19 epidemic, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) suggested during Sunday night’s presidential debate, if it had a single-payer health care system similar to his Medicare for All proposal. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading contender for the Democratic nomination, was appropriately skeptical, noting that Italy, the European country hardest hit by the disease, has a single-payer system, and “it doesn’t work there.”

Sanders is hardly alone in using COVID-19 as a pretext to promote a policy he has always favored. But at a time when clarity about government aims and means is crucial, that temptation should be resisted unless there is a plausible connection between the policy and the current crisis.

Sanders’ claim failed that test. Not only has Italy’s health care system been overwhelmed by the epidemic, but countries such as Spain and France are following a similar path, notwithstanding their government-dominated medical sectors.

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