Sally Pipes: BidenCare would bring socialized medicine and end private health insurance

When President Trump accused Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at their debate Thursday of supporting socialized medicine, Biden called the claim “ridiculous.” But in fact, Trump is right.

The former vice president is trying to position himself as a moderate on health care — someone who will build on ObamaCare. But his plan, which he dubbed BidenCare for the first time during the debate, would absolutely nudge the U.S. toward government-run, single-payer health insurance.

If Democrats win control of both houses of Congress and the White House in the election now underway with early voting, BidenCare is coming — to the detriment of the more than 180 million Americans who now have private health insurance coverage

The centerpiece of Biden's health care agenda, as he articulated it in the debate, is a new public health insurance option that would compete alongside private insurers on the state and federal health insurance exchanges created under ObamaCare.

Leading Democrats are already signaling that they'll blow up the filibuster in the Senate to ram the public option through. Biden may not love the tactics that his former colleagues in the Senate employ. But he'll certainly sign whatever bill they send him to make BidenCare a reality.

Proponents of the public option envision paying doctors and hospitals at rates similar to Medicare's, which are dramatically lower than those paid by private insurers.

Research published last month by the RAND Corporation found that private insurers pay hospitals 247 percent of what Medicare pays. That's nearly 2.5 times as much.

And as moderate Democrat and former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland pointed out before he dropped out of the race for his party’s 2020 presidential nomination, reimbursing hospitals at the Medicare rate would create a financial crisis for them — particularly rural hospitals.

Delaney said at a Democratic presidential primary debate last year: “If you go to every hospital in this country and you ask them one question, which is, ‘How would it have been for you last year if every one of your bills were paid at the Medicare rate?’ Every single hospital administrator said they would close." 

That statement was criticized by many as overblown, but certainly, hospitals would suffer serious financial harm with such a big cut in their revenue and would have to take action to make up for the losses. And some would undoubtedly close. 

On top of this, the public option wouldn't take in enough in premiums to cover its costs. That means your tax dollars would have to fill any gaps in the program's finances.

According to new research from Lanhee Chen and Daniel Heil of the Hoover Institution, a public option would increase the federal deficit by a staggering $800 billion over 10 years. Covering that tab will require massive tax hikes — including on the middle class, despite Biden’s promise that he won’t raise taxes of anyone making under $400,000 a year.

Armed with these two major advantages over private health insurance companies — far lower payments to hospitals and hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies — the public option would be able to substantially underprice private health insurance companies and entice their customers away.

Slowly but surely, private health insurance companies would leave the market, unable to compete.

One study from FTI Consulting projects that the introduction of a public option would cause 20 percent of state marketplaces to lose all private health insurance options by 2028. We can expect that more would leave in future years.

Another step toward government-run, single-payer health care is Biden's plan to lower Medicare's eligibility age from the current 65 to 60.

Never mind that Medicare’s Part A hospital insurance trust fund is set to be exhausted in four years. Biden's proposal would add to these financial woes by bringing another 23 million Americans into the program at an estimated cost of $200 billion over the next decade.

Then there's Biden's plan to offer billions of dollars more in federal subsidies to people shopping for coverage on the ObamaCare health insurance exchanges. No one — not even people with incomes more than four times the poverty level — would have to pay any more than 8.5 percent of income for insurance.

Biden would also allow people who can get health insurance coverage through their jobs to reject that offer and opt for taxpayer-funded health insurance on the exchanges.

In addition, under BidenCare low-income people in states that did not expand Medicaid under ObamaCare would be automatically enrolled in the public option — and would not have to pay premiums or deductibles.

Add it all up, and Biden wants to vastly expand the share of Americans dependent on the federal government for their health insurance coverage, thereby inching the nation towards the single-payer system that progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have long desired.

Radical changes like these couldn't command unanimous Democratic support during President Obama’s administration. And yet, they are now at the heart of the agenda of the party's most famous “moderate” – former Vice President Biden.

The Democrats' pitch for the presidency is predicated on unifying the country. But their proposed governing agenda is a progressive wish list.

BidenCare is ObamaCare on steroids, with a huge price tag funded by big tax increases and it would eventually lead to the end of private health insurance and have other harmful consequences as well — no matter how strongly Biden denies it.

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