THE GAZETTE EDITORIAL: The desperate pitch of ‘Medicare-for-all’

THE GAZETTE EDITORIAL: The desperate pitch of ‘Medicare-for-all’

August 2, 2018

By: The Gazette editorial, August 2, 2018

Democrats need an economic message for November’s election, in an environment of wage growth, record-high employment, soaring home ownership, and other improving economic factors.

That is why we hear so much about “Medicare-for-all.” Notable among these politicians are Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a likely 2020 presidential candidate, and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis — Colorado’s Democratic nominee for governor.

The Medicare promise probably sounds good to a lot of people who want swift resolution to the health care crisis. It lacks the negative stigma of “socialized medicine,” or its euphemized siblings “single payer” and “universal health care.”

Medicare-for-all sounds friendly, raising no giant red flag. Most Americans have parents or grandparents on Medicare. It works among a niche population, comprised mostly of people who worked and paid throughout their working years to fund the system. The program is part of Social Security. It equally serves rich, poor and all in between.

We cannot simply pass a bill and extend this level of health coverage to anyone with a pulse, many of whom invested nothing in the system. It would put extraordinary demand on a health care system that cannot expand overnight by legislative fiat.

For those reasons and more, fulfilling the Medicare-for-all promise could bankrupt the country, or ignite an intractable recession.

Such are the findings of a study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, in Virginia.

“Enacting something like ‘Medicare for all’ would be a transformative change in the size of the federal government,” said Charles Blahous, the study’s author.

The study found Medicare-for-all would increase federal spending $32.6 trillion — with a “t” — over 10 years. That cost alone is $11 trillion more than the entire federal debt, which we cannot get on top of.

This is not the first study to report the staggering unaffordability of pie-in-the-sky Medicare-for-all plans. Other studies find increases in federal spending of $25 to $35 trillion in the first 10 years.

Kenneth Thorpe, a former senior health policy adviser in President Bill Clinton’s administration, led a study for Emory University that found government would spend $2.5 to $3 trillion each year on Medicare-for-all.

The studies warn of these costs, even after accounting for savings Medicare-for-all would generate by lowering prescription costs.

Mercatus researchers concluded government could not afford Medicare-for-all if it doubled all federal individual and corporate income taxes.

Talk is cheap, but politicians cannot possibly give everyone the level of health care earned by retirees who mostly paid it forward. The math does not work.

The Gazette editorial board


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