A single-payer test drive?

The Wall Street Journal editors ask: “If Democrats believe the lesson of ObamaCare is that the government should have even more control over health care, then why not show how it would work in the liberal paradise?”

The question is prompted by the California Senate’s recent passage of a single-payer health care bill. The legislation guarantees free government-run health care for California’s 39 million residents — no co-pays, deductibles or insurance premiums — as well as virtually unlimited benefits. Patients could see any specialist without a referral and receive any treatment that their provider says is medically appropriate.

Who is going to pay for this? The California Senate didn’t say. It did not include a funding mechanism, leaving that to the Assembly.

The Senate appropriations committee contemplated a 15 percent payroll tax. However, the California Nurses Association, which is pushing for single-payer in California, suggested, instead, a 2.3-percentage point increase in the state sales tax (to 9.55 percent, not including local add-ons) and a 2.3 percent business gross receipts tax on revenue exceeding $2 million.

In addition, the Nurses contemplate “reallocating” $225 billion a year in Medicaid, Medicare and ObamaCare spending for single-payer, assuming a federal waiver. With such a reallocation, they say, the legislature would only have to come up with $107 billion.

The Nurses Association relies, though, on a study claiming that single-payer would reduce health care spending by $37.5 billion a year. Unless you believe that letting people get treated for free whenever and wherever they want would save money, the Nurses’ proposed tax hikes won’t do the funding trick.

According to the Journal, Governor Jerry Brown has hinted that he won’t sign this sort of single-payer bill. Apparently, the idea is too radical even for him.

My friend Craig Harrison, a Californian, posted these comments regarding the prospect of single payer on the Journal’s op-ed:

Can the state really commandeer my federal Medicare benefits?

For purposes of purchasing secondary health care insurance, what do I need to do to establish residency in another state [the current plan makes it illegal to sell health insurance in California]?

When it takes 3-6 months to see a physician in California, can the state stop me from going to Nevada, Arizona or Oregon for care? Will they put me in jail if I do?

How many miles offshore need a hospital or clinic ship anchor to be outside of the reach of the state?

The Journal says, I assume at least half in jest, that it is “warming” to the California legislation “as an instructive experiment in progressive government.” The idea is to “force progressives to live with the consequences before they foist another health-care experiment on the entire country.”

But then, the Journal’s editors don’t live in California.