Full disclosure: I have done paid consulting work for Florida’s current governor, Rick Scott, in his campaign against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. And I have provided informal advice to Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor. However, neither the Scott nor DeSantis campaigns had any involvement with this article, and my views are—as always—my own.
On Tuesday, Democrats in Florida nominated an unusual candidate for governor, and it has nothing to do with his skin color or background. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who would serve as Florida’s first African-American governor if elected, says on his campaign’s website that the health plan U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has offered at the national level “will help lower costs and expand coverage to more Floridians.”
Here’s how that plan, which Sanders turned into legislation (S. 1804), would “expand coverage to more Floridians”:
SEC. 901. RELATIONSHIP TO EXISTING FEDERAL HEALTH PROGRAMS.
(a) MEDICARE, MEDICAID, AND STATE CHILDREN’S HEALTH INSURANCE PROGRAM (SCHIP).—
(1) IN GENERAL.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, subject to paragraphs (2) and (3)—
(A) no benefits shall be available under title XVIII of the Social Security Act for any item or service furnished beginning on or after the effective date of benefits under section 106(a)… [emphasis added].
In case you didn’t know, Title XVIII of the Social Security Act refers to Medicare. Section 901(a)(1)(A) of Sanders’ bill, which he brands as “Medicare-for-all,” would prohibit the Medicare program from paying out any benefits once the single-payer system takes effect. Section 701(d) of his bill would liquidate the Medicare trust funds, transferring “any funds remaining in” them to the single-payer plan.
In other words, Democrats just nominated as a statewide candidate in Florida—a state with the highest population of seniors, and where seniors and near-seniors (i.e., all those over age 50) comprise nearly half of the voting electorate—someone who, notwithstanding Sanders’ claims about his single-payer bill, supports legislation that would abolish Medicare for seniors entirely. Good luck with that.
That’s What ‘Radical Experiment’ Means, Folks
The recent hullabaloo over an estimated budget score of the Sanders plan, which would require tens of trillions—yes, I said trillions—of dollars in tax increases, highlighted only one element of its radical nature. However, as I pointed out in a Wall Street Journal op-ed earlier this year, the Sanders experiment would go far beyond raising taxes, by abolishing traditional Medicare, along with just about every other form of insurance.
Under the Sanders bill—or “Medicare-for-None,” to use its more accurate title—only about 11 million individuals would retain their current health care coverage. That number includes 2.2 million Native Americans receiving services from the Indian Health Service, and 9.3 million veterans enrolled in, and receiving care from, the Veterans Administration.
Everyone else, which is roughly 300 million people, would lose their current coverage. Traditional Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program would all evaporate. Even the Federal Employee Health Benefit Program would disappear.
With those changes in coverage, people could well lose access to their current doctors. As a study earlier this summer noted, medical providers like doctors and hospitals would get paid at much lower reimbursement rates, of 40 percent lower than private insurance. (A liberal blogger claimed earlier this week that, because other payers reimburse at lower levels than private insurers, the average pay cut to a doctor or hospital may total “only” 11-13 percent.)
Doctors and hospitals would also have to provide more health care services to more people, since “free” health care without co-payments will induce more demand for care. If you think doctors will voluntarily work longer hours for even less pay, I’ve got some land I want to sell you.
In fall 2013, Barack Obama’s “If you like your plan, you can keep it” promise turned into a firestorm, and PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year,” when “only” a few million people received insurance cancellation notices. By abolishing private insurance entirely, the Sanders plan would represent a change multiple orders of magnitude greater than what cost Obama—and Obamacare—precious political capital five years ago.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
In 1983, the British Labour Party wrote an election manifesto that one of its own members of Parliament famously dubbed “the longest suicide note in history.” That plan pledged unilateral nuclear disarmament, higher taxes on the rich, to abolish the House of Lords, and renationalization of multiple industries.
Although Sanders’ bill weighs in at 96 pages in total, opponents of the legislation can sum up its contents much more quickly: “It abolishes Medicare for seniors.” That epithet could prove quite a short suicide note for Gillum—and the Left’s socialist dreams around the country.