Single-payer, they think, might be just the ticket
Having sustained truly historic losses over the course of Obama’s presidency and into President Trump’s first term, the Democrats need a winning platform plank, and they think they’ve found it in single-payer health care.
With surprising Democrat base support for socialist Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) in the 2016 Democrat primaries and with California taking the lead with its ludicrously expensive single-payer health care scheme, Democrats are lunging left on health care. So much so, that they may be on their way to rebranding as “the single-payer party.”
For years, Republicans savaged Democrats for supporting the Affordable Care Act, branding the law — with some rhetorical license — as a government takeover of health care.
Now, cast out of power in Washington and most state capitals, Democrats and activist leaders seeking political redemption have embraced an unlikely-seeming cause: an actual government takeover of health care.
At rallies and in town hall meetings, and in a collection of blue-state legislatures, liberal Democrats have pressed lawmakers, with growing impatience, to support the creation of a single-payer system, in which the state or federal government would supplant private health insurance with a program of public coverage. And in California on Thursday, the Democrat-controlled State Senate approved a preliminary plan for enacting single-payer system, the first serious attempt to do so there since then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed legislation in 2006 and 2008.
. . . . In a sign of shifting sympathies, most House Democrats have now endorsed a single-payer proposal. Party strategists say they expect that the 2020 presidential nominee will embrace a broader version of public health coverage than any Democratic standard-bearer has in decades.
A prominent labor union leader and Bernie supporter notes that there has been a “cultural shift” on health care since ObamaCare was passed.
The NYT continues:
RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, powerful labor groups that back single-payer care, said the issue had reached a “boiling point” on the left.
“There is a cultural shift,” said Ms. DeMoro, who was a prominent backer of Mr. Sanders. “Health care is now seen as something everyone deserves. It’s like a national light went off.”
Single-payer was voted down in the 2016 Democratic Platform.
But that was when they were all-but-certain that Hillary would win the White House.
While Democrats are embracing single-payer on the state level, it’s not clear that it will come to pass in any of the states that have proposed it.
At this point, state and federal single-payer proposals appear mainly to embody the sweeping ambitions of a frustrated party, rather than to map a clear way forward on policy. A handful of legislators in Democratic states — some positioning themselves to run for higher office — have proposed single-payer bills, including in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Only in California does the legislation appear to have at least a modest chance of being approved this year.
Even there, State Senator Ricardo Lara, an author of the bill, said his legislation would not clear the State Assembly without detailing how expanded coverage would be financed. The proposal currently lacks a complete funding plan.
If the answer to their funding problem is the typical leftist go-to of higher taxes, they may be in for a surprise. Voters may support single-payer health care in theory, but when they find out how much it costs, their support dwindles.
There’s one other thing that’s fairly consistent among the states that have proposed single-payer systems in recent years: When voters find out how much a single-payer system will cost, they are much less likely to support one.
Single-payer advocates learned that lesson last year in Colorado at the ballot box, as the state turned blue for Hillary Clinton even as 79 percent of voters said “no” to single-payer health care.
Other polling bears out that relationship. A recent poll commissioned by the California Association of Health Underwriters, found that 66 percent of California residents are opposed to single-payer health care. Opposition increased to 75 percent when those polled were told the price tag for the system is $179 billion annually—which is actually lower than what the legislative analysis suggests.
Democrats are aware of this, of course, and as Reason notes, their idea for bypassing these pesky fiscal and public support issues is to regain control of Congress and the White House.
A single-payer system at the federal level would have the same fiscal problems, of course, but unlike state governments that are required to balance their budgets annually, a nationally single-payer system would just be added to the federal government’s ever-growing tab.
That’s not necessarily better, but it would offer something of a solution to the problem of how to pay for a hugely expensive new entitlement. Until Democrats control the federal government, though, state-level efforts like the ones in New York and California are likely to continue percolating.
This may be their goal, but it does not play well with voters who don’t like the idea of crushing new taxes and/or of adding trillions to our national debt. Who can forget Bernie squirming unhappily when pressed on how he’d pay for his “Medicare for All” boondoggle?DONATE
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