Bernie Sanders says coronavirus is proof that we need socialized medicine. Because China’s socialized health care system has done such a great job? I don’t know. Logic isn’t Bernie’s strong suit.
A better analysis comes from Cato’s Dan Mitchell, who begins by noting some liberals’ claims that the virus is an argument for Big Government or, at least, Big Medicine. Dan argues that, on the contrary, the federal government has hindered an effective response to the coronavirus:
The virus originated in China, where government controls the healthcare system. It’s also spread most significantly in nations such as Iran and Italy, where government also plays a dominant role in health care.
Even here in the U.S., government medicine has not covered itself in glory:
…officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stymied private and academic development of diagnostic tests that might have provided an early warning and a head start on controlling the epidemic that is now spreading across the country. …the CDC required that public health officials could only use the diagnostic test designed by the agency. That test released on February 5 turned out to be badly flawed. The CDC’s insistence on a top-down centralized testing regime greatly slowed down the process of disease detection as the infection rate was accelerating. … On February 29, the FDA finally agreed to unleash America’s vibrant biotech companies and academic labs by allowing them to develop and deploy new tests for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Quoting the New York Post:
Overregulation of diagnostic testing has played a major role in this delay. … Test protocols using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were publicly available shortly after Chinese researchers published (or described) the sequence of the virus in mid-January. The World Health Organization (WHO) used a freely available German procedure to create a test kit, shipping 250,000 tests to 159 laboratories worldwide. … CDC testing criteria have precluded recognizing community spread because of requirements stipulating recent travel to China or exposure to an infected person. Adherence to these guidelines delayed testing in the first probable case of community transmission… The FDA has not allowed the experienced and highly skilled professionals at public-health, academic and commercial laboratories to set up their own laboratory developed tests (LDTs), and no manufactured test kits have been authorized for sale in the US. In Europe, several companies, at least one US-based, have regulatory approval to sell test kits there.
In short, the last thing we need to effectively combat pandemics is a more centralized and bureaucratic health care system.
Update: This morning President Trump tweeted an attack on the Centers for Disease Control and the Obama administration:
…. Their response to H1N1 Swine Flu was a full scale disaster, with thousands dying, and nothing meaningful done to fix the testing problem, until now. The changes have been made and testing will soon happen on a very large scale basis. All Red Tape has been cut, ready to go!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
Smart politics? I don’t know, but I think he’s probably right.