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EDITORIAL: Surprise: ‘Free’ health care would cost trillions

An aide to Mahatma Gandhi once famously observed, “It costs a lot of money to keep this man in poverty.” Likewise, it would take a lot of cash to pay for all of Bernie Sanders’ “free” stuff.

On Monday, the Mercatus Center at George Washington University released a study concluding the Vermont socialist’s “Medicare for all” proposal — a government takeover of the nation’s health care system — would cost $32.6 trillion over 10 years, requiring astronomical tax hikes.

To put this into perspective, the entire federal budget for fiscal 2019 will be $4.407 trillion.

Sen. Sanders responded typically for those who don’t have the facts on their side: He shot the messenger. In particular, he attacked the Mercatus Center because it receives some money from … trigger warning! … the nefarious Koch brothers, those dastardly, rich libertarians who promote dangerous ideas such as the value of free markets.

“This grossly misleading and biased report,” Sen. Sanders said, “is the Koch brothers’ response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for all’ program.”

In fact, the Mercatus Center has an outstanding academic reputation. Tellingly, Sen. Sanders didn’t refute the findings with his own numbers. That’s because he doesn’t have any. Bernie has yet to provide a cost analysis of his “free” health care for all pipe dream. When he gets around to it, you can quadruple the estimate, and it will still be a lowball number.

Far from being “misleading and biased,” the study confirms what previous reviews have concluded. Bernie’s own home state of Vermont abandoned its pursuit of socialized medicine in 2015 because it would have doubled the state’s spending in the first year alone and would have required backbreaking tax hikes on residents and businesses. Similarly, California Democrats shelved plans for a single-payer system after learning it would cost $400 billion a year, more than twice the state’s current budget.

Meanwhile, a 2016 analysis by the left-leaning Urban Institute calculated the Sanders plan would cost $32 trillion over 10 years, right in line with the Mercatus findings. Kenneth Thorpe, a health policy expert at Emory University, authored a 2016 study that found the Medicare-for-all price tag would be $27 trillion over a decade.

“Even though people don’t pay premiums, the tax increases are going to be enormous,” Mr. Thorpe told The Associated Press. “There are going to be a lot of people who’ll pay more in taxes than they save on premiums.”

Throw in “free” college tuition, “free” child care and whatever else Sen. Sanders wants to hand out in his cradle-to-grave welfare state, and the annual taxpayer costs could run into the $4 trillion range. Looting the evil “1 percent” wouldn’t be remotely enough to pay for it all. Neither would doubling the current tax rates on everyone.

As humorist P.J. O’Rourke wrote, “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.” Sen. Sanders and his credulous progressive acolytes can’t wait to turn Mr. O’Rourke’s quip into reality. Voters should beware of their poisonous snake oil.

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