Sen. Bernie Sanders, the socialist who runs with the Democrats, introduced his single-payer “Medicaid for All” bill last week. Conspicuously missing was any mechanism to fund his government takeover of health care.
The issue has been problematic for Sen. Sanders for some time. A 1987 video pulled from the archives in recent days by the NTK Network features a much younger Bernie telling an interviewer that if Medicaid were enlarged to include the entire U.S. population, “we would be spending such an astronomical sum of money that, you know, we would bankrupt the nation.”
At the time, Sen. Sanders was the mayor of Burlington, Vt., and a year away from enjoying a honeymoon with his wife, Jane, in the Soviet Union.
More than 15 Democratic senators lined up behind the Sanders proposal to nationalize health care. In the House, more than 100 Democrats — including Nevada’s Dina Titus, protected by a safely gerrymandered district — back a similar bill. That they would do so before identifying how they propose to pay for such a radical step is a testament to ideology’s tendency to obscure reality.
Supporters of the plan cite polls that show an increasing number of Americans — though still a minority — now embracing some form of single-payer. The numbers come crashing to earth, however, when they learn the costs. As Eric Boehm notes on reason.com, a June survey found that 65 percent of Californians favor single-payer. But when told that implementing such a scheme would entail $50 billion in new taxes, support fell to 42 percent.
This pattern is repeated across the country in other liberal strongholds. Vermont abandoned a single-payer proposal two years ago after estimates put the price tag at $2.5 billion, almost double its current budget. California lawmakers have postponed a push — and faced death threats from progressives — to impose a single-payer plan because actuaries pegged the cost at an astronomical $400 billion. A New York state measure, Mr. Boehm reports, would cost between $92 billion and $240 billion each year. The Empire State’s current budget is $80 billion.
“It’s fair to question whether there is any state,” Mr.Boehm writes, “where the political, fiscal and legal hurdles to single-payer can be overcome.”
But Republicans mustn’t be complacent. Democrats have had great success over decades carefully constructing an entitlement mechanism that — as the Obamacare fiasco highlights — is virtually impossible to pare back. The GOP must aggressively counter the dangerous notion that the most just means of allocating health care services is through a massive federal bureaucracy dedicated to central planning and government diktat.
Sen. Sanders vows to eventually outline a proposal to pay for his socialized medicine program. Here’s a sure thing: Whatever his revenue estimates, double them — and that still won’t be enough.