In Progressive America, All Roads Lead to Single-Payer
Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., recently introduced the “Choose Medicare Act,” which would give every American the option to buy into Medicare. Their colleagues have already rolled out three other bills that would provide for a more limited Medicare buy-in, a Medicaid buy-in, and a full-fledged, government-run, single-payer system.
All of these bills would lead to the same inevitable outcome — a federal takeover of the nation’s healthcare system. Each of the government-sponsored buy-in plans could operate at a loss indefinitely. Private insurers don’t have that luxury; they’d ultimately go out of business.
This, of course, is progressives’ goal. Allowing Medicare and Medicaid to “compete” with private insurance seems innocuous. But promises of “if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it” will prove just as false under these Democratic proposals as they were under Obamacare.
The Choose Medicare Act would allow Americans of all ages to buy into Medicare through the state and federal exchanges. Employers would also be free to purchase these plans for their workers. Sens. Murphy and Merkley call the scheme “Medicare Part E.”
Additionally, the Murphy-Merkley overhaul would raise the value of Obamacare’s premium tax credits and make them available to Americans earning up to 600 percent of the federal poverty level, or $150,600 for a family of four. The legislation would also allow the government to effectively impose price controls on prescription drugs.
Sen. Murphy claims the legislation “lets consumers and businesses decide whether they want to migrate to a Medicare plan or whether they want to stay on private insurance.”
That’s nonsense. The Choose Medicare Act would suffocate private insurers. The Murphy-Merkley, with the limitless resources of the federal government behind it, could set artificially low premiums and hemorrhage money indefinitely. Unable to compete with Medicare’s pricing, private insurers would be forced out of the market entirely. Before long, the public option would be the only option.
The same logic applies to a seemingly more modest bill proposed last fall by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo. That reform, called “Medicare-X,” would make a version of Medicare available to all individuals and small businesses on Obamacare’s exchanges.
In contrast to the Murphy-Merkley public option, which would be available immediately, Medicare-X wouldn’t hit the market in 2020. At first, it would only be available in regions where fewer than two insurers sell coverage on the exchanges. By 2023, the program would go national, giving all Americans the option of buying a Medicare-X plan.
The bill’s sponsors claim that Medicare-X will “create more competition in the marketplace.” But just like the Murphy-Merkley plan, Medicare-X’s endless stream of federal funding would allow it to kneecap any private competitors with artificially low premiums. In short order, the federal government would claim a monopoly on health coverage.
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, has taken a similar approach — with one big twist. His plan would allow people to buy into Medicaid, the joint state-federal program that provides health coverage to low-income Americans.
Sen. Schatz hints that the buy-in would likely kill off private insurers. “If the private insurance market can survive, in a context of a public option, good for them. But if they can’t, then that will tell you something about the nature of the market,” he told Vox.com.
At least Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is honest that his Medicare-for-All bill represents a federal takeover of the entire healthcare system.
Sen. Sanders’s proposal — which would cover everything from vision and dental benefits to primary care visits and maternity services — would ban all forms of private insurance and funnel all
Americans into a single, government-run health plan within four years.
Democrats may seem to have a diverse array of healthcare reform proposals. But they’re all just paths to the same destination: single-payer. That’s why so many prominent Democrats, including Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., are sponsoring both the Murphy-Merkley public option and Sen. Sanders’s bid for Medicare-for-All. Sens. Murphy and Schatz are co-sponsors of Bernie’s bill, too.
Public options based on Medicare or Medicaid will spell the end of private insurance. And cut-rate government reimbursements will drive numerous doctors to scale back their practices or into retirement.
Let’s hope voters realize as much — before politicians sneak single-payer in through the back door.