by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Senator Bernie Sanders (I.,Vt.), America’s most prominent proponent of government-run health care, is once again leading the charge to move our country to a single-payer system.
As chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders is pushing a $3.5 trillion budget plan that includes expansions of Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. Some moderate Democrats have balked at the cost. But Sanders predicted Sunday that Democrats would “come together” to pass the massive package via reconciliation later this year.
The health-care reforms in the budget would funnel millions more Americans into public health coverage and put our nation a stone’s throw from Senator Sanders’s longtime goal: a government takeover of the health-care system.
Consider the Democrats’ proposed changes to Obamacare. As a part of its March coronavirus-relief package, Congress made federal subsidies for exchange plans more generous and opened them up to all enrollees for two years. Previously, only people making less than 400 percent of the poverty line — about $106,000 for a family of four — were eligible. Now, no enrollee has to pay more than 8.5 percent of their income in premiums.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this two-year expansion will cost taxpayers roughly $34 billion.
Now Democrats want to extend them indefinitely as part of the budget-reconciliation package at an estimated cost of $200 billion a year.
Making that change permanent would likely drive more Americans to the exchanges. Thanks in part to the more generous subsidies, the number of Americans enrolled in Obamacare plans has reached a record high of 12.2 million.
It’d be shocking if paying people to sign up didn’t result in more Americans selecting these plans.
Unfortunately, those plans tend to be of low quality. More than 70 percent of Obamacare plans have narrow provider networks, according to an analysis from health-care consultancy Avalere.
Democrats also want to make more older adults dependent on government for health care by reducing the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60.