As much as we have criticized Gov. Jerry Brown, we have to acknowledge that on occasion he will act as the senior statesman of his party, beating back its most mindless impulses. The most recent example: his judicious counsel on single-payer health care.
Of course Brown has been a supporter of single-payer health care. He favors the concept.
“It’s become an idea of fairness and health care as a right,” he told Rolling Stone in a recent interview.
Yet he concedes “it needs a lot of careful consideration. It’s a big undertaking.” He further noted that Vermont passed a single-payer regime, “but they couldn’t make it work, and they gave up on it.” Maybe that’s because of its enormous expense. The cost would have been the equivalent of the entire state budget. Financing the program would have necessitated an 11.5 percent payroll tax plus a 9.5 percent surcharge on an individual’s income in Vermont.
Brown said that single-payer health care in California “would be about $400 billion a year,” which he believes would require about $100 billion in additional revenue annually (but likely much more since the state General Fund budget is about $184 billion). He understands that raising those dollars would be a tough political struggle in a state that’s already spending great chunks of other people’s money.
“If you had everybody on board, you might be able to create something like that. But the (new California fuel) tax – which is only $5 billion – got one Republican vote, and it’s already causing a recall,” he told Rolling Stone. “Now we’re talking 20 times that? Is that serious?”
The truth is, the cost of single-payer health care might be more than 20 times the cost of the new fuel tax. As Pacific Research Institute President and CEO Sally Pipes recently wrote in Investor’s Business Daily, “government-run, single-payer health care has proved time and again to be a costly, destructive fantasy.”
Cost is only one consideration, though. Access and quality of care are two more headaches that single-payer would cause.
“It is really a total government takeover and as with any single-payer system, such as Canada’s where I’m from, there would be long waiting lists for care, care would be rationed, and there would be lack of access to the latest treatment and technologies,” Pipes told San Francisco’s KNTV when Sen. Bernie Sanders was in town last month agitating for single-payer.
And there are legitimate concerns that rather than become de facto government employees, doctors will flee California or retire early, and new doctors will avoid the state.
Instead of single-payer health care, maybe it should be called single-payer health calamity. Because there will be more harm than healing under a single-payer framework. That’s guaranteed.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.