Let me start by saying I am all in favor of affordable, comprehensive health care for everyone, and I do understand the only way that will ever happen is by some degree of involvement by the government.
But even Vermont, home of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the nation’s favorite liberal, gave up on single-payer health care in 2014 because it’s just too expensive for any one state to accomplish.
The Assembly, though, doesn’t care about that, played politics and passed a single payer plan called the New York Health Act for the third year in a row earlier this month.
The bill would abolish insurance companies, co-pays, premiums and every other out-of-pocket health care expense and give it away free.
It would, according to the Assembly storyline, actually save us money.
And I just bought a big bridge over the Hudson for a sack of beads and a pack of smokes. Keeping in the spirit of things, though, I won’t charge a toll.
The bill is authored by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a representative from Manhattan elected 30-plus years ago. In other words, he hasn’t held a real job in a really long time so he hasn’t had to worry about affordable health care except in the abstract.
In writing the bill, he relied heavily on an analysis by Gerald Friedman, the Department of Economics chair at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
According to that report, New York would have to increase the tax levy by $92 billion to cover the cost of single payer. That’s more than double the current tax levy, and would be raised, in part, by federal money – considering there are federal waivers which are far from guaranteed – and money people pay into the health care system now except it would run more efficiently and cost less with the state running it.
I’m not going to pretend to understand the nuances of health care, or even try to make an informed critique of the study.
But, there is that old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There’s another old saying: never trust a Manhattan assemblyman who has never had a real job with your money. OK, that may not qualify as a “saying” but it’s no less true.
One guy I do trust to take a critical, responsible look at health care – and who is smart enough to comprehend all its complexities – is Bill Hammond, a former reporter and columnist now working as an analyst at the Empire Center for Public Policy.
Of Friedman’s analysis he wrote:
“His conclusions conflict with those reached by more sober analysts including at the left-of-center Urban Institute, who have projected that single-payer systems would increase overall health-care spending, not reduce it. A more conservative study by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity estimates that AlbanyCare would quadruple the state’s tax burden and destroy 175,000 jobs.
Yet Friedman’s too-good-to-be-true numbers were cited as gospel by Gottfried and most of his fellow Democrats in the Assembly …”
As an aside, I don’t like the House Republican’s alternative to Obamacare either. It would cost states billions of dollars to continue health care for the poor and I’m sure New York – you and I – would end up picking up the bill. You can read Hammond’s analysis of that here.
I am all in favor of single payer, provided it doesn’t cost me any more money than health care already does and that’s only possible if it happens on a national level.
Also, if the left’s argument that “health care is a right” is true, then it should be a federal issue. A fundamental tenant of our republic is a state’s right to govern itself, but states cannot and should not pick and choose what the Constitution affords – and does not afford – every U.S. citizen.
On the flip side, the right’s mantra of “government doesn’t belong in health care” is as simplistic as the New York Health Act. I don’t want insurance companies dictating health care, I want them to pay for it when it’s needed. And everyone should have adequate health care insurance too.
The only way to guarantee all that is through some degree of government involvement and the most effective layer we have are the feds – regardless of what party is in the White House.
The pot of money is much larger, and the feds are much better equipped to deal with something as enormous. Plus, we wouldn’t have to worry about people bouncing from state to state to make sure they have hospitalization.
In addition to the practical, fiscal, philosophical and logistic barriers to the states doing it on their own, in New York we’d be nuts to give our dysfunctional lawmakers oversight of a program worth billions of dollars when people’s lives literally depend on it.
Jim Franco can be reached at email@example.com or at 878-1000.