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Single-payer: Coming soon to a theater near you?

Chronicle Guest View

August 8, 2017
By Sally C. Pipes , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Hollywood loves a sequel. This summer, studios are releasing a fifth Pirates of the Caribbean, a third edition of the Despicable Me franchise, and another Spiderman.

But warmed-over ideas are not the sole province of the film industry. Progressive lawmakers are launching a reboot of their own - Single-Payer Health Care: A Future We Can Believe In.

The trailer promises a futuristic, universal healthcare system without premiums, deductibles, or copays. But this feature is sure to flop. Single-payer's previous runs have been horror shows, with billions of dollars in cost over-runs and patients waiting helplessly for necessary care.

Lawmakers across the country are vying to be the first to establish a single-payer system.

The California state Senate passed a bill that would abolish private health coverage and enroll all residents in a single-payer system. The state Assembly shelved the measure for now - but may consider it next year. Washington state senator Maralyn Chase is drafting a similar proposal.

In May, New York's state Assembly approved a bill that would establish a single-payer system in the Empire State. And in June, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed legislation that would have allowed any state resident to sign up for the state's Medicaid program.

At the national level, a single-payer plan introduced by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has over 100 co-sponsors.

These bills would destroy the healthcare system and the economy.

Consider the California bill. The state Senate's Appropriations Committee found that the measure would cost $400 billion annually. That's more than three times the state's annual budget.

The state would fund its plan by raiding taxpayers' wallets. The Appropriations Committee calculated that it would take a new 15 percent payroll tax to come up with half that tab.

In New York, single-payer could cost $226 billion in 2019 and destroy 175,000 local jobs, as companies flee to other states.

Those crippling taxes are among the reasons that even liberal voters have panned previous attempts to impose single-payer.

Colorado voters rejected a single-payer proposal last November by an 80-20 margin. The plan would have subjected residents to an additional 10 percent payroll tax. Even Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper didn't back it.

Vermont's dalliance with single-payer was also short-lived. In 2011, the state legislature approved a single-payer plan. It would have cost $4.3 billion annually - requiring an 11.5 percent payroll tax and an additional 9 percent individual income tax. Former Governor Peter Shumlin scrapped the plan, deeming it too expensive.

Single-payer systems also deliver atrocious care. In Canada's single-payer system, the median patient waited 20 weeks in 2016 between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment from a specialist. A 2014 study of 11 industrialized countries ranked Canada dead last in timeliness of care.

Many Canadians leave the country to get the care they need. In 2015, more than 45,500 Canadians received non-emergency medical treatment outside of Canada. In recent years, local health officials have authorized over $100 million in spending to send Ontario patients waiting for critical transplants to U.S. hospitals.

In the United Kingdom's government-run system, patients aren't faring any better. In 2015, over 130,000 patients did not receive timely cancer care.

Single-payer systems have consistently received poor reviews from those trapped in them. Once American audiences realize that, they'll give pitches for single-payer a big thumbs-down.

Sally C. Pipes is President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute.

 
 

 

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