By Ken Hambrick
While Congress struggles with what to do with Obamacare, California is playing around with the idea of a single-payer system.
The state Senate passed flawed single-payer legislation. Wisely, the Speaker of the Assembly put it on hold. His rationale was there were just too many holes in it, especially on how to finance it. But not to worry, the liberal Legislature will revive it down the road.
One question that continues to raise its ugly head, even if you favor a single-payer system, is the cost. While no one knows for sure, the Senate Appropriation Committee estimates it to be as high as $400 billion.
Even The Washington Post noted the system’s astronomical price tag, adding that the increases in taxation would be coupled with a decrease in benefits and access to care, which has to happen to keep costs down and ensure universal coverage.
While Gov. Jerry Brown claims the budget is balanced, the state is wallowing in huge debt. Financial analysts say California is on shaky ground due to nearly $400 billion in unfunded liabilities and debt from public pensions, retiree health care and bonds.
So can it take on a health-care cost that is equal to its unfunded debt? Not without a huge increase in taxes.
Both Vermont and Rhode Island tried to implement single-payer plans. Once started, they abandoned the efforts. Why? Because they finally realized they couldn’t afford it. Yes, they are smaller, but if they couldn’t afford it, how can a big state like California with 39.5 million people afford it?
Look at our nearby neighbor, Canada. Yes, it has a socialized form of single-payer health care. Each province is charged with financing its own plan. Forty percent of each province’s budget is devoted to health care.
How do they control costs? By rationing medical care. According to Dr. Brian Day, a former president of the Canadian Medical Association, “The real problem is the government monopoly on insuring medically-necessary care, which leads to rationing of doctors and services, and “no accountability.”
Waiting for treatment has become a defining characteristic of Canadian health care, 29 percent of adult Canadians who fell ill and needed to see a specialist waited two months or longer, and 18 percent waited four months or longer.
This means that the public system is saturated, patients must either endure lengthy waits or leave Canada to receive treatment.
With that said, Americans to a large part are already covered with healthcare. The U.S. entered 2016 with an estimated population of 322,762,018. Of those, 55 million were covered by Medicare and another 74 million by Medicaid (pre-ACA 57 million).
Whether you like Obamacare or not, it did expand Medicaid coverage by almost 20 million.
The majority of the rest of folks are covered by other insurance. In fact 90 percent of the population is covered by some form of insurance. So one can make the argument that a single-payer system is not only unaffordable, it is unnecessary.
To sum up: Single-payer system is unaffordable, a plan as was passed by the state Senate is full of serious holes, although Jerry Brown won’t admit it, the state is almost bankrupt with nearly $400 billion in unfunded liabilities and debt from public pensions, retiree health care and bonds, the Canadian model of universal coverage is failing (the same is true of the U.K. system) and 90 percent of the population is covered by some form of insurance already.
While the idea of a single-payer system sounds good, it is not a panacea as has been proven in other parts of the world. Think about that if you are ever asked to vote on it.