The “unity task forces” assembled by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his primary competitor and avowed socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently issued their report. The policy recommendations, released ahead of next month’s Democratic National Convention, speak to how far the party has moved to the left, even under the supposedly “moderate” Biden.
On health care, the fact that the task force failed explicitly to endorse a single-payer system does not make its policies much less radical. Compared to the policies of Barack Obama — the man under whom Biden served as vice president, and whom Biden uses as a virtual lodestar — the Dems’s platform would massively expand the government’s role in health care while paving the way for a single-payer system over time.
Bias Towards Government-Run Health Care
In 2009, Democrats claimed that a government-run health plan — also known as the so-called “public option” — would compete on a “level playing field” with private insurance companies. They don’t even bother making that claim anymore. They don’t believe it, nor would any right-thinking person. Instead, Democrats want to focus on enrolling as many people as possible in government-run care.
The report proposes requiring the government-run health plan to provide a no-deductible option, to make it more enticing for potential enrollees. Democrats also would make the government-run plan the default option, both for individuals in states that have yet to expand Medicaid and “those enrolled in any social safety net program for low-income Americans,” such as cash welfare or food stamps.
The policy report claims that individuals can opt-out of the government-run plan at any time — an ironic statement, given that Biden previously said he wants to reinstitute Obamacare’s government mandate to buy health insurance. The emphasis throughout, however, remains on automatically enrolling people in government-run coverage “at no cost to them,” building an enrollment base for the government-run plan to fit hand-in-glove with a culture of growing dependence on “free” government benefits.
Dismantling Employer Coverage
The scope of Democrats’s plans to expand government-run coverage becomes clear when the document talks about “untethering health care from employment” by repealing the “firewall” blocking employee access to the marketplace (i.e., exchanges), including the government-run plan. Currently, individuals with an offer of “affordable” employer coverage cannot receive federal exchange subsidies. Democrats want to change that prohibition, primarily so they can enroll more people in the government-run plan.
The report states that “Democrats believe working people shouldn’t be locked into expensive or insufficient health care plans when better options are available.” But if Democrats want to delink health insurance from employment, they could support the Trump administration’s regulations that allow individuals to buy their own health plans, with the employer providing a defined contribution to plans that workers own themselves.
Instead of empowering individuals to take employer health-care dollars and spend them on the insurance policies individuals want, the report proposes substituting those employer dollars with taxpayer funds instead. In other words, Democrats want to spend more taxpayer dollars — and presumably raise taxes to make that possible — to subsidize people who already have health insurance, just to get them to enroll in government-run care.
Expand an Insolvent Medicare Program
While not endorsing Sanders’s single-payer plan, the document mentions “Medicare” a total of 24 times. It talks about allowing individuals to buy into Medicare at age 60, expanding the program to include dental and vision coverage, and other nebulous “improvements.”
Yet concerning Medicare, the plan doesn’t mention the word “solvency” at all. The entire document mentions “solvency” only once and claims that “we will put Social Security on a path to solvency and strengthen it in perpetuity.” But it doesn’t say exactly how Democrats propose to put Social Security on a path to solvency, nor does it bother talking about Medicare solvency.
In reality, Medicare became functionally insolvent several years ago. Democrats claim that Obamacare extended the solvency of Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, but the truth is they claimed that money would count both to pay for Obamacare and to fund Medicare — an inherently illogical and impossible proposition. Even those double-counted dollars will expire in 2026, or just more than five years from now. Yet despite this, Democrats’ plan to make Medicare solvent consists of…expanding the program.
Problems of Government Care
Ironically, even as Democrats propose expanding Obamacare, and government-run health care in general, their document implicitly refers to the law’s major flaws. It attacks “the increase in mega-mergers and corporate concentration across a wide range of industries,” particularly within health care, while omitting the fact that Obamacare encouraged a spree of mergers among hospitals and other health care providers.
Likewise, the report promises to “eliminate current [Medicaid] home care waiting lists of 800,000 nationwide,” without pointing out that Obamacare exacerbated this problem by encouraging states to prioritize Medicaid coverage of able-bodied adults over eliminating waiting lists for individuals with disabilities.
The fact that Democrats now want to “fix” some of the problems caused by the party’s last health “reform” should give voters reason enough to reject Democrats’ “unity” proposals. At this rate, neither American taxpayers nor the health care system can afford the party’s march towards government-run care.