The latest Democratic presidential debate took place on Sunday and was hidden away among the football playoffs featured numerous clashes between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, an avowed socialist. At issue was Sanders’ proposal for “Medicare for All,” essentially the abolition of private health insurance and its replacement with a government-run health care system. Clinton believes that attempting such a radical public policy change is foolish in the extreme. She favors incremental changes in the current Obamacare system, in effect, reforming health care reform.
The Sanders plan is breathtaking in its audaciousness. He claims that it would save Americans $5,000 in saved health care premiums. He also promises:
“Bernie’s plan would create a federally administered single-payer health care program. Universal single-payer health care means comprehensive coverage for all Americans. Bernie’s plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary care to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.”
All you have to do is to show your government health care card, and all of these things will be yours by right. The country would save trillions in health care costs.
The other shoe is that the program will be paid for by massive tax increases. These include a 6.2 percent tax paid by all employers, a 2.2 percent tax on all income, and the oldie but goodie huge tax increases on the rich.
Clinton, on the other hand, sees little wrong with Obamacare, which also promised but failed to deliver savings in health care costs, that a little tweaking won’t improve. From bitter experience, Clinton knows the perils of too much, too soon government takeover of health care.
Clinton also must imagine what a Republican like Ted Cruz would do to Sanders in the general election. Experience in the government-run health care systems Sanders touts, from the wait lists and rationing in Canada to the death panels and doctors’ strikes in Great Britain, would provide ample ammunition for someone like Cruz or any other Republican to gut Sanders and his health care plan in any debate.
Ironically, Sanders is right in that Obamacare has been a disaster that has increased the cost of health care and degraded its quality. The current system is wildly unpopular as well. But will his approach of doubling down on government control of health care work as either an election issue or a public policy? Experience and logic suggest that it will not.