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Larry Kudlow slams "Medicare for All," says current system is "OK"

  • In a speech, Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, touted the benefits of private health insurance.
  • He also took issue with Democratic plans to expand Medicare to all Americans, regardless of age.
  • Kudlow said the current employer-based system "ain't perfect, it needs reform. But it's still pretty good."

President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser said the American health care system was "pretty good" and "people are pretty satisfied with it" as he defended White House economic policies in a speech Tuesday. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, touted the benefits of private health insurance and decried plans some Democrats have put forward to expand Medicare.

He said such a move would shave millions off economic growth. "With universal Medicare, and other giveaways, people that don't want to work, subsidies here, loan forgiveness and this and that, everything's free," Kudlow said.

Under a single-payer health care system, he claimed, "180 million people would lose their private health insurance, principally through business ... completely sacrificing the efficiency of what is still a pretty good health care system. It ain't perfect, it needs reform. But it's still pretty good, and people are pretty satisfied with it."

NPR Health Policy Correspondent Alison Kodjak, who moderated the event, pushed back on Kudlow's assertions. "Most polls show that people don't particularly love their insurance company," she said, and noted that the U.S. spends 18 percent to 20 percent of GDP on health care -- double the amount of other developed nations. "Why is redirecting [those payments] necessarily bad? It's not necessarily going to cost more -- it's just redirecting the money," she said.

"Most remarkable government confiscation plan"

"I don't know what the right amount of health care spending is," Kudlow said. "If you live in a prosperous economy and incomes rise... People may choose more health care. It's a free choice, and I like that a lot." 

He continued: "I think idea of just taking [employer-based health insurance] away is the most remarkable government confiscation plan I've ever heard," he said. "By and large we get our insurance from businesses, and we are making it easier, I might add." He pointed to the Trump administration's move to allow so-called association health plans to be sold across state lines, which is currently being fought over in the courts.

"You know, I think the basic parts of the system are OK. We can do better, but not if the government runs it, I don't buy it," Kudlow said.

Kudlow also said he liked his Medicare policy. About 42 million Americans are covered by Medicare, a system of universal health insurance for those over 65. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is pushing a bill to expand Medicare to all Americans. The legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Cory Booker (New Jersey) and Kamala Harris (California), all of whom are running along with Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination.