Opinion

OPINION: Bernie’s Latest Plan? Bankruptcy for All

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Democrat presidential candidates are lurching further and further to the left to distinguish themselves within the growing pack of socialists battling for the nomination. For President Trump this is a good thing as the eventual nominee will likely be to the left of Lenin, Chavez, or Mao.

Aside from the insane Green New Deal, Democrats are pushing free healthcare for everyone, regardless of the economic realities of cost and availability. Their plan is called “Medicare for All,” a scheme for universal single-payer coverage.

This plan is not new. Instead it was first proposed by the late Rep. John Conyers in 2003. In hindsight, Democrats should have enacted this in 2009 when they had complete control of Congress and the White House. Instead they settled for Obamacare, simply a bite of the apple but far short of the leftist dream of single-payer.

Today Medicare for All is embraced by many of the Democrat presidential contenders, despite its fiscal impossibility. It would cost three quarters of the existing federal budget, require a doubling of taxes, and pay physicians so much less that many would quit, leading to provider shortages and wait lists.

Former Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz described the Medicare for All plan as “not American” due to its cost and punitive taxes. Should we heed the words of a highly successful businessman? Or instead listen to the promises of a guy who was kicked out of a hippie commune for “sitting around and talking” rather than working? I speak of a younger Bernie Sanders.

Bernie, not content with doubling the federal budget to provide healthcare to everyone, wants to double down providing even more freebies paid for by a government over $21 trillion in debt. Currently one in six Americans are covered under Medicare. Already unsustainable, Medicare and Social Security are projected to run an $82 trillion deficit over the next 30 years.

When you are in a hole, stop digging. The current Medicare program is a very deep hole, but Bernie Sanders wants to keep digging until he reaches China. His latest scheme, to out-left his competitors for the Democrat nomination, is long-term care for all.

Such care is expensive, running from about $50 to $100 thousand per person per year, based on 2016 numbers. While many individuals need such care, offering it to everyone is clearly unaffordable, on top of the already unsustainable Medicare for All plan.

Long-term care sounds good and will likely poll favorably among voters who are unable to think or analyze beyond sound bites. Look what is overlooked in Bernie’s basic Medicare for All plan, dutifully ignored by the media.

The basic Medicare for All bill, H.R. 676, “Provides all individuals residing in the United States and U.S. territories with free health care that includes all medically necessary care.” That’s the opening sentence. Let’s take it apart.

“All individuals residing in the U.S.” would include those here illegally. What about visitors, residing in the U.S. during their visit? Notice the wording is not “citizens” or “legal residents” but instead anyone “residing” in the U.S..

Who decides what is “medically necessary care”? He who pays the piper calls the tune. This plan is funded by the federal government. That’s who decides what is “medically necessary.” If a government bureaucrat decides you are too old or overweight for a hip replacement or kidney dialysis, too bad.

If the government won’t pay for the medical care you want, get private insurance, right? Actually, no since according to the bill, “Health insurers may not sell health insurance that duplicates the benefits provided under this bill.” Unlike most countries — such as the United Kingdom or New Zealand, which both have a national health care service and a parallel private system for those who choose and can afford it — Medicare for All is a one-tiered system.

This is much like the old Soviet Union, land of Bernie’s honeymoon, where there was only one brand of car available in one color and if you were approved to own a car, you had to wait 10 years for it. For healthcare, it will be Bernie’s plan or nothing.

How will long-term care fare under such a system? Those most in need of such care are generally at the end of life, not working, not productive, not contributing to the U.S. treasury which is paying for all of this.

Remember that long term care costs don’t include concurrent medical expenses, “Spending on Medicare beneficiaries in their last year of life accounts for about 25% of total Medicare spending.” This is a costly segment of the population, a drain on the treasury.

Notice how easy it is now to kill a full-term baby who survived an abortion? Is this paving the way for similar measures at the other end of life? Allowing the government to dictate end of life care might not work out well for the elderly and infirm.

As the candidates add more goodies onto Medicare for All, clearly unaffordable with no mechanism to fund their largess, they should rename their plan “Bankruptcy for All.”

Brian C. Joondeph (@RetinalDoctor), MD, MPS, is a Denver-based physician.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.