Sanders’ Leads the Democrat Lemmings Off the Healthcare Cliff

“These are simply not tax rates that I can responsibly support or urge the Legislature to pass,” Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said in 2015 after dropping his hoped-for vision for single-payer healthcare. “In my judgment, the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families and the state’s economy.”

Bernie Sanders’ home state couldn’t get single payer healthcare over the finish line. The enormous risks, in the form of huge tax hikes, an uncompetitive business environment, and a diminished health care system, simply outweighed any potential benefits. The Green Mountain State found that single payer would have cost the state more than $2.5 billion, an enormous amount given the small population, which would have necessitated a doubling of the tax rate.

But Sen. Sanders’ is not one to be tethered to reality or math. Economists from across the political spectrum castigated Sanders’ preposterous economic growth projections, arguing that “no credible economic research supports economic impacts of these magnitudes,” and arguing that Sanders’ actions “undermines our reputation as the party of responsible arithmetic.”

Ouch.

Sadly, it didn’t matter. Progressive devotees lined up to support the fiery Democratic Socialist. And as a result, Sanders was able to pull the Democratic party dramatically leftward, even as he refused to join it.

Health care is perhaps Sanders’ biggest coup. As recently as 2008 no Democratic presidential candidates supported single-payer as a path to reforming the health care system. Now, it has become a litmus test for any would-be Democrat nominee.

Current frontrunner, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her plans to co-sponsor Sen. Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill even though it didn’t even exist yet. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who refused to back the idea in her 2012 Senate run, was quick to join in. A few days after Warren’s move, one-time mainstream candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, followed suit. And Sen. Cory Booker, who rounds out the foursome of Senate Democrats with the best chance at the Democratic nomination, is apparently setting aside his previous antagonism for the idea and working with Sanders on language.

Democrats are literally tripping over themselves to demonstrate they were some of the first to jump on Sanders’ Medicare-for-all bandwagon.

Don’t they see what a fools errand this is? Although the idea, devoid of context, may be a political winner, its a house of cards that falls apart at the slightest wisp of questioning. Sure, Medicare is not only popular, it’s also familiar. But it’s not insurance, at least not in the form that many people currently enjoy.

In a Medicare-for-all system employers would stop covering part of their employees’ insurance premiums and people would see their taxes rise. And for all of that trouble, Americans would receive less coverage. Medicare, most notably, doesn’t cover long-term care, which will come as a rude awakening to many.

Once you peel back the onion you realize that Medicare-for-all is not a silver bullet to magically reduced health care costs. Instead, it’s merely a lever to reduce the amount of care that’s currently being provided. As Ezra Klein (nobody’s version of a conservative) writes for Vox:

The real way single-payer systems save money isn’t through cutting administrative costs. It’s through cutting reimbursements to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and device companies.

But to get those savings, the government needs to be willing to say no when doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and device companies refuse to meet their prices, and that means the government needs to be willing to say no to people who want those treatments. If the government can’t do that — if Sanders is going to stick to the spirit of “no more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges” — then it won’t be able to control costs.

Want to know what implementing that system looks like? The Atlantic offers a glimpse:

“[Insurance-industry analyst Bob] Laszewski compares trying to rein in health-care costs by dramatically cutting payment rates to seeing a truck going 75 miles an hour suddenly slam on the brakes. The first 10 to 20 years after single payer, he predicts, “would be ugly as hell.” Hospitals would shut down, and waits for major procedures would extend from a few weeks to several months.

Is that really the world that Democrats’ want to usher us into? If Bernie Sanders can’t even convince his home state that the tradeoffs are worthwhile then how does he expect to sell it to a much more politically diverse nation? These are questions that Democrats have no answer for. But that has not stopped them from jumping aboard a Medicare-for-all scheme that is little more than a political Potemkin village.