Opinion

Is Biden a Trojan Horse for Single-Payer?

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Posted: Oct 28, 2020 12:01 AM
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Is Biden a Trojan Horse for Single-Payer?

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden describes himself as a "transition" candidate and a "bridge" to a future generation of party leaders.

Those comments should scare every American who opposes socialized medicine. Biden himself may not favor a Canadian-style, government-run healthcare system -- at least not publicly. But his likely successors do. And if Biden and his fellow Democrats triumph this November, American patients and taxpayers could experience the disastrous consequences of single-payer far sooner than they realize.

Younger Democrats, both elected and rank-and-file, overwhelmingly favor single-payer health care. Just consider the views of vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

California's junior senator proudly co-sponsored Senator Bernie Sanders's two Medicare for All bills, introduced in 2017 and 2019. For most of her ill-fated presidential campaign, she strongly advocated for single-payer health care. Only toward the end did she temper that support in a last-ditch attempt to attract moderate voters.

Or consider legislators like New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the fifth-highest ranking Democrat in the House. Many pundits predict he'll one day become Speaker. Last fall, he co-sponsored Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal's Medicare for All bill, which would push the country into full-blown government-run health insurance in two years, rather than the four-year transition period envisioned by Sanders.

A Biden victory in the presidential election would enable these progressives to lay the foundation for a full-fledged single-payer system. And that would destroy American health care as we know it.

The Sanders plan that Kamala Harris endorsed, for instance, would eliminate private insurance and enroll every American in a single government-run plan with no premiums, copays, or deductibles. Patients would have access to everything from checkups to surgeries "free of charge."

That comprehensive coverage isn't actually free, of course. It'd cost the government $46 trillion over the program's first 10 years, according to an estimate from the American Action Forum.

Sen. Sanders offered up a slew of taxes to pay for his plan, including a new 4 percent income tax, with the first $29,000 in income exempted for a family of four; a new 7.5 percent payroll tax; and draconian taxes on the wealthy and large financial institutions. But those taxes wouldn't generate nearly enough money to cover the cost of Medicare for All.

Even doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes wouldn't adequately finance the plan, according to research from the Mercatus Center. To keep Medicare for All afloat, the government would have to impose crushing taxes not just on the wealthy but on middle and low-income families, too.

That's precisely what happens in countries that have already implemented single-payer health care. The average Canadian family of four pays over $14,000 in hidden taxes each year to fund their country's health care system.

Those taxes don't buy much in the way of care. In Canada, the median wait time between a primary care referral and specialist treatment last year was around 21 weeks, more than double the average wait in 1993. One 2019 investigation found that there were roughly 175,000 patients in eastern Canada who couldn't access a primary care doctor.

Delays and shortages are so bad that many Canadians seek treatment in the United States. When one Calgary woman was pregnant with quadruplets and went into labor two months prematurely, every hospital in her city in Alberta was at capacity. She and her husband drove over the border to Great Falls, Montana, a city of just under 60,000, where she delivered four healthy baby girls.

Joe Biden is a Trojan horse for socialized medicine. His vice-presidential pick, and some of his most prominent supporters on Capitol Hill, desperately want to establish a single-payer system. And they will, if voters give them the chance this November.

Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith fellow in healthcare policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.