Luke Schroeder, columnist
After multiple botched attempts, congressional Republicans have yet to follow through on their campaign promise to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare.
As stated by Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH), the ACA promised, “If you liked your plan, you could keep your plan; if you liked your doctor, you could keep your doctor; premiums would go down by $2,500; the Obamacare exchanges would work; the website would be secure; and emergency room visits would go down”. He continued, “Those are all false statements and signs of failure. Look no further than the fact that 19 of the 23 Obamacare co-ops have already gone bankrupt.”
While many Democrats won’t (publicly) admit it, everyone knows the ACA is falling apart. Insurers are fleeing the exchanges at breakneck speed – next year, nearly half of all U.S. counties will offer only one insurer on the exchanges. Care is too expensive, and the immense weight of the federal bureaucracy is crushing free market competition, at the detriment of the consumer.
The events of the past few months have proved one thing: There will never be a perfect healthcare bill, and there will never be a perfect healthcare system. However, it is congress’s duty to do what they can to create a better system, even though that will guarantee strong opposition. A replacement must come soon, and it must not repeat Obamacare’s fundamental mistakes.
While there are many options for improving our nation’s healthcare system, that is not what this column is about – this column is about the type of healthcare plan that this nation should never pursue.
Just a few days ago, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a single-payer healthcare bill into the United States Senate, a bill he claims would guarantee “Medicare for all”. As many will remember, Bernie championed this idea on the campaign trail during the 2016 presidential primaries.
In 1987, Sanders said: “if we expanded Medicaid [to] everybody, [gave] everybody a Medicaid card—we would be spending such an astronomical sum of money that, you know, we would bankrupt the nation.” Interesting.
Back then, Bernie seemed to at least have some sense. With his recent single-payer proposal, he has proven that he’s perfectly willing to “bankrupt the nation”, just to pander to his far-left base.
Bernie’s single-payer crusade may seem like a decent concept to many on the far-left, but in reality, it would wreak total havoc on the United States.
According to a report from the Urban Institute, a liberal think tank, Bernie’s plan would increase federal spending by over $30 trillion in the next decade. Just to put this astronomical figure in perspective, it represents an increase of our current national debt by more than 150%.
Another report from the Center for Health and Economy estimates that Bernie’s program could cost even more, up to $47.55 trillion in the next decade – the report also projects the plan would cause medical productivity to decrease by 20%.
Bernie has proposed draconian tax increases in order to pay for his plan, but they would offset far less than half the cost according to the Urban Institute’s analysis. Among the proposed increases are a 7.5% increase in payroll taxes and an across the board 4% increase in individual income taxes.
These figures are absolutely dismal – Bernie’s plan is not sustainable, and it is laughably far from realistic; it would mean more debt, less freedom, more taxes and a lower standard of care for every American of every background.
So, the Sanders single-payer plan would be a total failure, but what about other instances where similar programs have been tried? Colorado, Vermont and California have all attempted to implement their own forms single-payer. Sure enough, single-payer has failed horrendously in each of those states too.
Just last year in Colorado, a single-payer ballot initiative was rejected by nearly 80% of the state’s voters. The program, “ColoradoCare”, would have required a 10% payroll tax increase for every Colorado resident, and would have cost the state $38 billion a year to run – this figure would have doubled the state’s entire operating budget. Even with the huge tax increases, the program was projected to run a quarter billion-dollar deficit in its first year of operation.
What about in Bernie’s liberal home state of Vermont? The state tried to impose single-payer in 2014 and failed spectacularly. The proposed “Green Mountain Care” program would have required a 160% increase in state taxes, including an 11.5% increase in payroll taxes, and would have sent doctors and hospitals into turmoil. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, a liberal Democrat, scrapped the plan entirely. “In my judgment,” he said, “the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.”
But surely, in the particularly liberal state of California, they have something figured out, right?
The “Healthy California Act”, California’s most recent attempt at single-payer, has been shelved by State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, who called the idea “woefully incomplete,” and noted there were “fatal flaws in the bill.” That legislation would have imposed $400 billion of new costs on California, well more than double the entire state’s budget. To foot the bill, the state would have had to raise their (already astronomical) taxes by around $200 billion. A state legislative analysis recommended an increase in state payroll taxes by 15% to cover the cost. These economic realities, just like the proposed legislation, are utterly unfeasible.
But wait, Canada has a single-payer system, right? Yes, they do, but its track record should serve as a warning to those who insist on implementing a similar system in our country. According to the non-partisan Fraser Institute, “There is an imbalance between the value Canadians receive and the relatively high amount of money they spend on their health-care system. Although Canada ranks among the most expensive universal-access health-care systems in the OECD [a large organization of industrialized nations], its performance for availability and access to resources is generally below that of the average OECD country.”
More spending, more waiting and a lower quality of care – that is the reality of single-payer in Canada.
Single-payer is a failure at home and abroad – don’t fall for the far-left’s empty promises and false rhetoric. The only lasting solution to the American healthcare system will include more free market competition, not less. It will mean less domineering from Washington, not more.
Only time will tell if congress can get this done, but it must be done soon – the American people deserve better than Obamacare, and they certainly deserve better than single-payer.