Socialized medicine in the United States would make health care worse in terms of both quality and availability, according to economist and author Benjamin Powell.

The government already plays too large a role in the health care system and plans like those endorsed by some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates would exacerbate problems that already exist, Powell claimed in an interview airing Sunday evening on "Life, Liberty & Levin."

"It's a horrible idea," he said of "Medicare-for-all" and free coverage for illegal immigrants. "The government is already too big in our health care industry right now. People complain about the high cost of health care, they don't like how it's working, but that's not markets. We have a severely regulated health care industry."

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The Independent Institute senior fellow added the current system does not reflect unfettered capitalism, and that places like Venezuela have a system similar on paper to what many liberal politicians are seeking.

"Doubling down and doing more government in medicine and promising it for 'free' would be even worse," he said.

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"In fact, lots of the socialist countries have given free health care for everybody. The Venezuelan Constitution puts in there that everybody has a right to free health care. But having a right on paper doesn't actually deliver it. There's still scarcity. The average person in Venezuela last year lost something like 19 to 22 pounds. This isn't a healthy country. Putting it on a piece of paper doesn't deliver."

Powell's fellow guest Robert Lawson — with whom he co-authored "Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World," added that even a wealthy country like the United States cannot promise a cradle-to-grave health care entitlement without rationing or a government bureaucrat making Americans' medical decisions.

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"If you want to find out how something can be expensive, make it free," Lawson said. "You make health care free and you're going to create waiting lines … and so when you don't have enough resources, then what? Then you have to ration. Someone has to decide — and if there's no prices due to the rationing, then it's going to be a government agency. Those guys are going to be the ones that decide… whether you're one of the lucky ones that gets it or not."

To that effect, Powell added that Cuba is another example of a problematic government-run health care system.

"Socialized medicine is a disaster there, just like it would be everywhere else."

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