Let there be no doubt: The Democratic base's center of political gravity is drifting inexorably to the left, so support for a national single payer healthcare scheme will at some point -- probably sooner than later -- become an ideological litmus test within that party. Recall California leftists booing and heckling Democratic officials who were unwilling to blindly endorse a proposed Socialized healthcare bill, the price tag for which would double the state's already-bloated budget. Without any plan to pay for it, and cheered on by the Golden State's leading candidate for governor, Senate Democrats in Sacramento passed the bill -- only to see it sputter and die in the House. The ruinous fiscal fantasy is stymied for now, but it'll be back. When it inevitably returns, perhaps California lawmakers should consult with their left-wing counterparts in Vermont, a very liberal state with a small and relatively homogenous population. Vermonters actually approved a single-payer healthcare system seven years ago, and then reality intruded in 2014:
For decades, liberal activists yearned for a European-style, single-payer health system that they argued would lead to more affordable, efficient, and comprehensive medical coverage for all citizens. When Vermont four years ago enacted a landmark bill to establish the nation’s first single-payer health care system, they saw their long-sought dream about to be fulfilled. But reality hit last month. Governor Peter Shumlin released a financial report that showed the cost of the program would nearly double the size of the state’s budget in the first year alone and require large tax increases for residents and businesses. Shumlin, a Democrat and long-time single-payer advocate, said he would not seek funding for the law, effectively tabling the program called Green Mountain Care...The decision not only stunned and angered supporters in Vermont, but also signaled that the dream of universal, government-funded health care in the United States may be near its end...“The idea of single-payer, or a Medicare-for-all type program, has always been a cherished dream for many in the Democratic Party,” said Henry J. Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank. “In truth, there had never been a hard, developed plan to implement such a dream. In Vermont, they finally developed a plan, and look what happened.”Undeterred by this reality check from his own home state, Sen. Bernie Sanders once again pressed for a nationwide government-run healthcare system on Meet the Press yesterday:
"Well let me also say something else when we talk about where we are with health care. Please do not forget that the United States of America today remains the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all people as a right. My view is that the Affordable Care Act has problems. Deductibles are too high. Co-payments are too high. We have to address that. But I also want to say that there is something wrong when we remain the only country not to guarantee health care to all people as a right. I am going to go forward with a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program. And I think that's the direction long-term that we should be going."You forgot to mention premiums, too, Senator. In any case, it's telling that Sanders (while predictably ripping into the Republican healthcare bill), explicitly admits that the "Affordable" Care Act is failing on affordability -- which, we should never forget, was the central premise on which Obamacare was fraudulently marketed to the public. With Democrats' healthcare experiment falling apart, Sanders is back to touting the need for a fully government-run and -controlled system, noting that the United States is the only major industrialized nation that hasn't embraced that model (declining to mention that some of those countries are moving away from it, amid systemic cost and access problems). Leftists argue that the demise of exorbitantly-costly single payer dreams, even in states run by committed statists, wouldn't be replicated at the national level. They cite the federal government's ability to collectively negotiate costs, and to impose and enforce blanket price controls. Setting aside the fact that these top-down controls would crush medical innovation and inevitably result in government rationing, the notion that single payer is an affordable alternative is preposterous.
A liberal think tank analyzed Sanders' government-run healthcare plan during the campaign and determined that it would cost taxpayers an additional $32 trillion over ten years, meaning that Congress would need to extract more than three trillion dollars every year from the American people to pay for it. In 2016, Washington spent roughly $3.9 trillion. Total. The federal government is already spending hundreds of billions of dollars more than it takes in on an annual basis, pouring more red ink onto the $20 trillion national debt. The federal government has also handed out unpaid-for promises to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars, stretching into the future. Absent serious reforms, we are headed to a debt crisis when programs like Medicare and Social Security become insolvent in the coming years. What Sanders and his fellow travelers want is to take the current level of spending and explode it into the stratosphere, which would mathematically require stunning, economy-crushing and family budget-ruining tax increases on working and middle class Americans. All to pay for a brand new, enormous program that would effectively massively expand Medicare, which is going broke as it is.
If you like the fiscal insolvency of Medicare, and the level of service provided by the VA -- where another 100 veterans have died awaiting care in Los Angeles -- you'll love single-payer healthcare. Sanders' party is in denial over the latter reality, and Sanders shocked veterans groups by downplaying gross abuses, corruption and failures at the VA, which grew worse on his watch as chairman on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He was blinded by his faith in big government. Hillary Clinton similarly waved away the severity of the VA scandal, attacking Republicans for blowing it out of proportion. As a reminder, according to the Inspector General, hundreds of thousands of American veterans may have died awaiting appointments and care through the broken federal system, which Republicans have moved to fix.
This is one of the reasons why it's so curious that Sanders and Clinton would lead the charge against the Senate healthcare bill by claiming that it would result in the deaths of thousands (citing a partisan, left-wing advocacy group's analysis). They both reflexively defended a government program that directly resulted in veterans' premature deaths, wherein bureaucrats manipulated wait list data in order to protect their own taxpayer-funded bonuses. Similarly, single-payer advocates don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to "people will die" arguments. Beyond its unaffordability, government-run healthcare results in worse outcomes for its subjects: Far worse delays for doctor appointments and care, significantly worse survival rates for major diseases like cancer, far worse innovation for new life-saving treatments, and lower life expectancy rates (adjusting for fatal gunshot wounds and instant-death car accidents, which do not reflect on the efficacy of a healthcare system).
The plan Democrats created is betraying millions with shattered promises, and is failing apart at the seams. They're shamelessly demagoguing GOP efforts to fix the mess they made, with the growing Sanders/Warren wing of the party advocating a national system that would result in worse treatment, fewer cures, longer waits for care, and lower survival rates for terrible diseases. More people would die, sooner. And Americans would be forced to pay much, much higher taxes for the privilege of living under such a regime. In other words, to borrow their grotesque demagoguery, Democrats would be insistent on becoming the "death party." I'll leave you with these correct statements, which expose an uncomfortable truth about Obamacare and cut through the Left's motives-impugning hysteria about the best solutions to these complex policy challenges: