One of the hottest debate topics among Democratic candidates for President is health care. Surging Elizabeth Warren has embraced Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All proposal.
We’ll get to Warren’s problems on that front in a moment, but first think about this: West Virginia probably has more government-run health care than any other state.
West Virginia has an older population, which means more people are on Medicare. As of last November, 433,494 West Virginians were Medicare beneficiaries. One in five of those on Medicare qualified through a disability, as opposed to being age 65 or older.
The state is also poorer than most—36 percent of the population is low income—so that means many West Virginians are on Medicaid. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 28 percent of the population, or about 500,000 adults and children, are on the Medicaid rolls.
About 160,000 veterans live in the state. Government statics show that approximately 38 percent of them use VA health care. That’s about 61,000 people.
All told, just under one-million West Virginians, or 55 percent, get their health insurance and care through the government. That also means someone other than the beneficiary is paying for most of their care.
Sanders and Warren want to extend government care—Medicare for All—to everyone, and it will be free. But of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch; someone has to pay for it somewhere along the line.
Credit Sanders for at least being relatively honest by saying that the middle class, as well as the wealthy, will see their taxes go up. “At the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of people will save money on their health care bills, but I do think it’s appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up,” Sanders said during last week’s debate.
Try as they might, neither the questioners nor candidates could get Warren to make that same admission. She repeatedly played verbal dodgeball, while emphasizing that the wealthy and corporations would have to pay more.
A Forbes review of Warren’s platform found that her two percent wealth tax would raise about $2.75 trillion over a decade, enough to cover her plans for universal childcare, free college, elimination of student debt and her plan to combat the opioid crisis.
Berkeley Economics Professor Emmanuel Saez, who has advised the Warren campaign on the wealth tax, told Forbes, “Her taxes as they currently exist are not enough to cover fully replacing health insurance.”
By some estimates, ten years of Medicare for All will cost around $30 trillion. Yes, there will be expected savings, including no payments to for-profit health insurance companies and expanded negotiated provider costs, but she still comes up short.
But Charles Blow, a liberal columnist for the New York Times, wants Democrats to go big on health care and other issues, but also tell the truth. “I still believe that the candidates with the biggest plans need to level with the voters about how costly, painful and disruptive transformational changes are likely to be, at least in the short term,” he wrote.
“Treat voters with respect by telling them the whole truth, warts and all, instead of simply dangling jewels in their faces,” Blow wrote.
What a concept!
A Pew Research Poll earlier this year found that 69 percent of Americans believe health care costs should be a top priority of the Trump Administration and Congress. That tells you Americans are worried sick about getting sick and wondering how they’ll pay for their care.
Republicans have failed miserably on the issue. They rested for years on the poll-tested Obamacare bashing, then failed to come up with anything better. Democrats are just filling the void.
Many West Virginians can use their own experience to decide whether they prefer government-run health care, but they and the rest of us are entitled to the critical cost portion of the plan. Who is going to pay for it through higher taxes?