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EDITORIAL: Democrats becoming more intent on a government takeover of health care

Conventional wisdom has it that Republicans have moved sharply right over the past decade. That’s debatable. There’s little doubt, however, that their counterparts on the other side of the aisle have been steadily rushing left in recent years.

For instance, The New York Times reported last week that more and more Democrats are demanding that the government nationalize the American health care system. Many moderate liberals used to cringe at embracing socialized medicine, worried about the political stigma in a country built on capitalism and free markets. No more.

The Bernie Sanders candidacy last year has generated momentum in some quarters for the “single-payer” concept. The fact that a Vermont socialist whose Cold War sympathies resided with the Soviets has risen to such prominence speaks volumes about today’s Democratic Party.

The Sanders health-care plan, however, raised more questions than it answered. For instance:

— Would there be a separate, private health-care system in which medical providers could offer services similar to doctors who don’t accept insurance? Or would progressives outlaw the freedom to privately contract for health care?

— How will socialized medicine control costs absent strict limits on care? Markets are far more efficient at rationing services than are government bureaucrats.

Progressives love to tout the “compassionate” systems in Europe, Canada and even Cuba. But consumers in these countries have fewer choices and more limited access to certain care than do those in the United States. A 2014 Commonwealth report cited by CNN found that, among 11 developed countries, those living in single-payer Canada were least likely to get a same-day or next-day doctor’s appointment when they needed one, and were also the most likely to have wait two months (or more) to see a specialist.

The Times reports that most House Democrats now support a single-payer plan and that Democratic strategists expect their next presidential nominee to be much more aggressive in seeking such a system. But it’s not at all clear that Americans are ready to entrust their health-care decisions to federal functionaries. Voters in Colorado overwhelmingly rejected an October ballot measure that would have created the nation’s first single-payer system.

And then there’s the pesky issue of cost. Vermont’s governor in 2014 abandoned his dream of “free” health care when a study found the tiny state would have to double tax revenues just to get the program off the ground in the first year. Likewise, California Democrats hoping to impose a socialized system recently discovered that the cost of covering everyone — including illegal immigrants — would run $400 billion a year, more than twice the state’s annual budget.

The fantastical notion that socialized medicine will save money or improve the quality of care is unmitigated hokum. Republicans should welcome the debate.

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