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EDITORIAL: Even liberal Vermont couldn’t get Medicare-for-all going

Over the past decade, progressive Vermont tried to implement a single-payer health care scheme. It was a spectacular failure.

Several leading Democrat presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s junior senator, have endorsed “Medicare for All.” They present it as a cure-all for the American medical system. In reality it’s a government takeover of medicine.

The fantastical theory is this. The government would outlaw private insurance. Government bureaucrats would smoothly oversee a complex system involving the allocation of health care and the costs of providing it. There would be few shortages or waits, and the price tag would be significantly reduced once the evil insurance companies are removed from the equation.

If that theory sounds absurd, you’ve been paying attention. Millions of Americans support it, however. They include former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, as Peter Suderman, features editor at Reason, laid out in a recent op-ed in The New York Times.

In 2011, Mr. Shumlin signed Green Mountain Care into law. It was supposed to create a Canadian-style single-payer health care system in Vermont by 2017. The system never came to fruition. The lessons foreshadow trouble for Democrats espousing socialized medicine.

The first step toward implementing it was figuring out how to pay for it. Despite promises that a state takeover of health care would save money, the required tax hikes proved prohibitive. Like Sen. Sanders, Mr. Shumlin promoted the plan initially without explaining how to pay for it.

In 2014, Mr. Shumlin’s office estimated the plan would require an 11.5 percent payroll tax on employers and up to a 9.5 percent income tax on families. Turns out the equivalent of a 21 percent income tax to finance “free” health care didn’t have widespread political support. Go figure. The effort was so unpopular that Mr. Shumlin almost lost his 2014 re-election.

This failure is even more notable when you look at the size of Vermont, with just 626,000 residents. Clark County’s population is 2.2 million. The U.S. population is 327 million. If progressives couldn’t pull it off in Vermont, who but the most deluded ideologue could believe a national version would be more successful.

In 2013, Sen. Sanders touted Vermont as an example for the nation. “If Vermont can pass a strong single-payer system and show it works well, it will not only be enormously important to this state, it will be a model,” he said.

Vermont’s effort certainly was a model — of exactly how unworkable Sen. Sanders’ Medicare for All scheme would be. A far-left state with a committed governor and a willing legislature eventually had to confront this sobering reality: Free health care is a financial train wreck.

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