The Democratic Party’s presidential hopefuls are diverse in all ways but one — their stance on healthcare reform. The front-runners want to eliminate private insurance and put everyone on a government-run plan.
But that’s not something they’ve been enthusiastic about revealing to voters. Senator Elizabeth Warren recently refused to say whether she would support a single-payer plan that eliminated private health insurance. Instead, she offered the vague goal of “affordable health care for every American” and insisted that there are “different ways we can get there.” Senator Cory Booker has claimed he would not want to eliminate private health insurance.
Their legislative records tell a different story. The question is not whether Democrats favor eliminating private insurance — it’s how fast they’ll do it.
It’s easy to see why Democrats are side-stepping the issue. Most people who have private coverage like it. Seven in ten Americans who get insurance from their employers are satisfied with their plans. A mere 13% of people think private insurance should be eliminated, according to a recent Hill-HarrisX poll.
Senators Warren and Booker, along with fellow candidates Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, have already declared that they’re among that 13 percent. During the last Congress, they all co-sponsored Senator Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All bill, S.1804, which would outlaw private insurance that covers the same benefits as those provided by the government.
Given that the Sanders plan envisioned covering everything from hospital and preventive care to mental health treatment, prescription drugs, and even vision and oral health care, there would effectively be nothing left for private insurance to cover. So privately insured Americans could kiss their current plans goodbye.
The senators can’t just erase their co-sponsorship of Sanders’s bill. So they’re equivocating. They point to their simultaneous support for alternative legislation that would allow the government to offer a public plan that people could buy into — perhaps those over the age of 50, or those who don’t get health insurance through their jobs.
Senators Debbie Stabenow and Tammy Baldwin are the lead sponsors of a billto allow people to buy into Medicare at 50. Baldwin and her colleague Brian Schatz have also introduced a measure that would allow people to buy into Medicaid.
Problem solved, right? People could choose the public option, or stick with their private plan.
But a public option will eventually kill private insurance. The government doesn’t need to turn a profit, and can even rack up big losses. It has no investors; the Treasury can just issue new debt to cover those losses, or extract more money from taxpayers.
So the feds will be able to offer far lower rates than private insurers. As consumers start opting for these artificially cheaper plans, insurance companies would struggle to stay in business. They’d ultimately leave the market; a de facto single-payer system would be the result.
Regardless of how we get there, single-payer would deprive patients of far more than private insurance.
It would vacuum up trillions more dollars from taxpayers. In its first 10 years, Sanders’s Medicare for All plan would require at least $32 trillion in new federal spending. The tax hikes required to support the endeavor would be outrageous. Sanders has floated a new 7.5% payroll tax and 4 percent individual income tax, as well as higher taxes on the wealthy, capital gains, dividends, and large banks. He’d also create a wealth tax and subject more families to the estate tax.
Medicare for All would also deprive American patients of quality health care. Canada’s single-payer system — essentially a carbon copy of what Sanders and company have in mind — forces patients to wait a median of almost 20 weeksto receive treatment from a specialist after getting a referral from a general practitioner. Fewer than half of Canadians can get a same-day or next-day appointment with their family doctor.
Under Canada’s brand of supposedly free universal coverage, patients have access not to care but to a waiting list at a cost of almost $13,000 in hidden taxes for the average family of four, according to research from the Fraser Institute, a Vancouver-based think tank.
Most Americans are unenthusiastic about waiting months for care or paying Canadian-style taxes. But that’s exactly what will happen if Democrats get their way. Before 2020 rolls around, let’s hope voters get a dose of common sense.