American health care system 'still the best in the world' argues Rep. Mark Green during virtual COVID-19 town hall

During a virtual COVID-19 town hall hosted by Rep. Mark Green Friday morning, Franklin Alderman Beverly Burger voiced concerns of “liberals” using the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as an “excuse to push for more socialized medicine,” asking the congressman what his plans were to push back on that agenda.

Green affirmed his belief that the current American health care system is “still the best in the world,” and instead argued that the removal of regulatory barriers for hospitals would be a more effective tool in improving health care access than implementing a single-payer health care system.

What is socialized medicine?

Socialized medicine is a term used to refer to a health care system run by one entity - the federal government - that is completely funded by taxation, commonly referred to as a single-payer system or universal health care. 

Proponents of socialized medicine, such as senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, argue that a single-payer health care system insures that no American is denied health care services due to cost barriers, and that such a system would save Americans billions of dollars annually due to removing the for-profit model currently exercised by private health care insurers.

Opponents of socialized medicine, which include the majority of Republicans and more moderate Democrats, point to issues with socialized health care systems in other countries, such as the United Kingdom with its National Health Service (NHS). Residents in the U.K. are sometimes made to wait more than 12 hours in emergency wards before being treated, with socialized medicine opponents also arguing that implementing universal health care in the U.S. could end up costing more than $30 trillion over ten years.

Rep. Mark Green’s alternative to socialized medicine

The virtual COVID-19 town hall saw more than 8,000 participants listening in via telephone, and saw residents from Lawrenceburg to Brentwood ask Green their questions regarding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The final question of the virtual town hall came from none other than Franklin Alderman Beverly Burger, former vice mayor of Franklin and alderman since 2005.

“I do have something I'm very concerned about,” Burger said. “Thank God we're not under government run health care right now, but we know liberals are going to use the COVID-19 as an excuse to push for more socialized medicine - that's a given. So, what would be your plans to push back on this? We know this is coming, and we know they're going to use this.”

“Well obviously socialized medicine has not helped Italy, France or any of these other countries in Europe, and I would submit that our health care system is still the best in the world,” Green answered. “I know there are people who might argue with me on that, but I can go to morbidity and mortality data and make that argument.”

Despite having a form of socialized health care, Italy has been struck hard by the coronavirus pandemic. While the U.S. currently leads the world in the number or coronavirus cases, Italy has among the highest number of cases compared to its population, at nearly 2,000 cases per one million residents - the U.S. currently has 804 cases per one million residents.

“What we're going to be doing is trying to continue to fix the issues that are in our health care system,” Green continued. “This notion that Medicaid expansion is the end all be all to save hospitals or save rural hospitals, while 34 hospitals are closed in states that expanded Medicaid... obviously that's not the end all be all to save every hospital.”

While there are states that have expanded Medicaid that have also seen rural hospital closures, of the 106 rural hospitals that have closed since 2010, 77 percent of those are in states that had opted out of accepting Medicaid expansion dollars from the federal government, including Tennessee, which has seen the second highest number of rural hospital closures in the nation.

“What we've got to do is just make sure that the regulatory barriers that are out there like certificates of need, which keep small hospitals from doing things like nursing home beds, are fixed so that they have the revenue streams to keep themselves competitive, keep themselves able to survive in an increasingly urbanized country,” Green said. “So what we really have to do is help those rural economies, and that means revenue streams for hospitals, that means getting government regulation out of the way. That's the real way to fix, at least the rural hospital piece of this.”

“In terms of public health stuff that we're learning from this COVID-19, [we need to build] an industrial base at home that is national security focused with health care as an emphasis. I think you'll see that - we're all taking notes and writing down our lessons learned. You'll see many, many Oversight Committee hearings on this in the coming months, and I, as a member of the Oversight Committee, will be a very loud voice with some of those lessons.”

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