Government forecasters recently predicted that if nothing is done to prop up Medicare as it presently exists, the program will run out of money in 2026. But have no fear; leading up to the 2020 presidential race, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, has proposed “Medicare for All” as a solution to America’s increasing health care dilemma.
This new and improved version would cover 200 million additional Americans not currently covered by the existing program. There’s just one little hitch: its $32.6 trillion price tag. In a new cost analysis, former Medicare trustee Charles Blahous has determined that this would be the cost of such a program over just 10 years.
Yet as Democrats line up to oppose Donald Trump’s re-election effort, not one has issued a call to put the brakes on this hair-brained scheme. In fact, when asked how such a program would be paid for, the donkey-party’s newest celebrity Socialist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, confidently declared, “You just pay for it.” Obviously such thinking is common, as Sanders’ call for government-controlled health care has been co-sponsored by no fewer than 16 leading Senate Democrats.
Under the bill, private and employer-paid health insurance would disappear, as well as the currently-constructed Medicaid and Medicare programs; all to be replaced by one federal health insurance program. The new format would require medical providers and hospitals be paid through established Medicare payment rates and would limit private financial arrangements outside the new system.
Blahous grants that this proposal would lower the price of prescription drugs via an increase in the use of generics, reduce revenue to doctors, medical providers and hospitals, and vastly save on administrative costs. Still, generics already comprise 85 percent of drugs sold and the federal government’s track record in helping to hold the line on provider reimbursement has been less than stellar.
Further, the government has never placed a premium on preventing fraud, practicing efficiency or promoting cost competitiveness through the private market. For example, Medicare and Medicaid racked up an estimated $96 billion in improper payments as recently as 2016, and both programs have long been characterized by waste and inefficiency. At last, have endless promises by the federal government to reduce the cost of any government service ever come to fruition; Obama care being only one such example?
The sole, overriding result of all government attempts to better provide for its citizens has been to ensure ever-higher taxes. The same would result from the Sanders’ bill. Blahous estimates that to pay for the new Medicare, even doubling federal individual and corporate income taxes would be insufficient to support it. This is true even if provider reimbursement is reduced by over 40 percent regarding patients now covered by private insurance. Democrats also ignore the effect that such a massive expense would have on America’s spiraling federal debt.
And although Sanders’ single-payer system would certainly be cost prohibitive on a federal level, assorted assessments of state versions of the bill reveal much the same.
Florida’s James Madison Institute found that if the state enacted a single-payer system, it would have to raise its current sales tax from 6 percent to 39 percent. Were Maryland to approve such a program, the cost to taxpayers would be $24 billion per year. In North Carolina, the cost would be $41.9 billion. In Sanders own Vermont, the cost would be $2.6 billion, with a state personal tax increase to 9.5 percent and a new 11.5 percent payroll tax. The result in Colorado would be an estimated deficit of $7.8 billion by 2028. Even in New York and California, $200 billion plus in new taxes respectively would be required to support such a monstrosity.
All this with no guarantee that either the cost of medical care would go down or that the quality of such care would improve. In Bernie Sanders’ (and others) world, a government can oversee the destruction of a health care system that was once the envy of the world, then in the name of Socialism invent a seemingly perfect replacement without regard to fiscal sanity; never stopping until it is enacted. All the while, our present state of health care is diminished on a daily basis before our very eyes. And to some who would be president, this qualifies as progress.
Mark Figley is a political activist and guest columnist from Elida. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Miami Valley Today. Reach him a firstname.lastname@example.org.