As we roll rapidly through the election year, the remaining two Democrats vying for the nomination have backed expensive and radical changes to health care policy. 

Whether the frontrunners’ plans directly abolish private medicine (Sen. Bernie Sanders) or do so slowly but inexorably through a “public option” (Joe Biden), voters should consider that there is more at stake than losing the considerable advantage we Americans enjoy over our British cousins in cancer survival rates. 

Also at stake is freedom. 

Today in the U.S., private-sector medicine provides a varied landscape of health care styles and choices, in contrast to the sclerotic uniformity and government micromanagement of a socialist, single-payer system. 

With private medicine, health care workers and hospitals can opt out of ethically problematic “treatments” like suicide, abortion, and amputations of healthy organs. And patients have the freedom to choose oases of sanity and Hippocratic medicine, like Catholic hospitals, where they will receive care in accordance with the highest concepts of human flourishing, and not just those that happen to be currently in vogue with social engineers. 

If these fears seem the result of a fevered imagination, a close reading of former candidate Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare for All plan illustrates how one-size-fits-all-medicine can and will be harnessed to the cart of a radical social agenda. 

From Warren’s bill: “Items and services to eligible persons shall be furnished by the provider without discrimination.” This is not an innocuous phrase meant to protect against age or race discrimination by providers and institutions. Formulations like this are currently being used to wield the accusation of “discrimination” as a cudgel enforcing progressive aims.

For an example, look no further than a lawsuit brought against a Catholic hospital network in California for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on a healthy woman who identifies as a man.

The state’s Court of Appeals ruled in September that under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, the hospital, which performs hysterectomies only on women with cancer or other medical necessity, was discriminating against the plaintiff for being a “trans man.” 

Like the Medicare for All bill, the state’s civil rights act guarantees “full and equal accommodations, … privileges or services.” Under Medicare for All, every hospital in the country would be held to be discriminating against healthy women who were denied a hysterectomy, whether they refused for ethical, medical, or religious reasons.   

Discrimination will also be alleged when a medical worker refuses to perform or participate in an abortion. A woman who seeks a late-term abortion because her fetus has Down syndrome and is made to wait because the nurse on duty refuses to assist for religious reasons can claim to be a victim. 

Ditto for a man who is trying to fill his prescription for suicide pills and is told to go to the pharmacy next door. Under Medicare for All, any burden placed on the exercise of religion will be justified by the federal government’s compelling interest in ensuring equal access to medical treatment for all residents. 

What will be lost in the calculation, and quite purposefully, are the rights of doctors, nurses, and others to step aside and let someone else do the job they can’t in good conscience bring themselves to do: because it ends a human life, or irreparably harms a young and healthy body.

This, of course, is the worst kind of discrimination, because it would prevent these good people from working for what would be the only medical employer in the country: the government. 

Americans who love their private health insurance were famously upset when President Barack Obama’s promise that, “If you like your health plan, you can keep it” turned out to be a gross mischaracterization.  

Medicare for All comes with lots of promises that will turn out to be false: of cost containment, no tax hikes for the middle class, and the preservation of cancer cure rates that are the envy of the developed world. It also comes with assurances that promise to be true, like the fact that no one gets to keep their plan. 

If that is not enough to scare voters away from presidential candidates who espouse single-payer medicine, the end of freedom of conscience in medicine should do the trick.