Today is single-payer day. Bernie Sanders is introducing the Medicare for All Act of 2017, and this time he’s no lone socialist crying in the progressive wilderness. A total of 15 Democratic senators are backing his bill, including most of the top Democratic contenders for the presidency. As the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake observed yesterday, “The dam is breaking.” The New Republic, among others, is even arguing that single-payer is becoming the newest “litmus test” for the party’s presidential hopefuls, and given the speed with which the far Left transforms fringe ideas into moral mandates, I’m not surprised.
Sober-minded Democrats should be terrified. They just might be handing Trump two terms. There are three reasons why.
First, and most obviously, single-payer health care comes with an extraordinary tax bill. The very instant voters saw their take-home pay plunge — often by an amount that far exceeds their traditional employee contribution to their employer-provided insurance — they would realize that “free” health care isn’t free. For now, Sanders is concealing how he’ll pay for his bag of goodies, but any single-payer plan would be crushingly expensive. Here’s the Washington Post editorial board, on June 18 this year, describing the costs:
When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.,Vt.) proposed a “Medicare for all” health plan in his presidential campaign, the nonpartisan Urban Institute figured that it would raise government spending by $32 trillion over 10 years, requiring a tax increase so huge that even the democratic socialist Mr. Sanders did not propose anything close to it.
Indeed, Sanders’s 2016 revenue plan was a staggering $18 trillion short and still imposed more than $14 trillion in new taxes. To put this in context, the current total national debt — accumulated over the previous two centuries of the nation’s existence — is $20 trillion. These numbers are almost too huge for the human mind to grasp, but the mind can certainly grasp a substantially smaller paycheck.
Defenders of single-payer, however, claim that their system will ultimately cost less — pointing to lower costs in other nations. The Washington Post responds:
The public piece of the American health-care system has not proven itself to be particularly cost-efficient. On a per capita basis, U.S. government health programs alone spend more than Canada, Australia, France, and Britain each do on their entire health systems. That means the U.S. government spends more per American to cover a slice of the population than other governments spend per citizen to cover all of theirs. Simply expanding Medicare to all would not automatically result in a radically more efficient health-care system. Something else would have to change.
American government health care is more expensive than European government health care for multiple reasons, but let’s start with this one: Americans don’t live the same lives as citizens in other countries. We’re the most obese major developed nation, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s 2017 “Obesity Update,” and our rates of drug use, smoking, and alcohol abuse also differ substantially. Different nations will have different outcomes, and the American experience suggests that government cost savings will be far more elusive than Sanders supporters hope.
Moreover, voters are “richer, whiter, and older” than nonvoters. In other words, they’re the people who are most likely to have stable health plans. Older voters are already on Medicare. Would they want to pay more taxes for no measurable increase in benefits? Employed voters tend to enjoy a menu of employer-provided health plans, and they often like the plans they have. With single-payer, the Democrats couldn’t even pretend that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” By design, more than 100 million of those plans would disappear, to be replaced by one of the world’s most immense government bureaucracies.
But the reasons why the single-payer push helps Trump and the GOP go well beyond the health-care debate itself. This emerging litmus test is symptomatic of a larger problem: The Democratic party is increasingly the wholly owned subsidiary of the progressive base, and the progressive base has become too radical for widespread electoral success.
Do they still exist? I haven’t seen one in a long, long time. Maybe Webb.
Birdie Sanders is past time to fly south Now Get Going Squawk Squawk,kraaw,Sktreet,Skree
Hey… maybe we could cut costs by letting Bernie’s wife run the program!