Chris West: Single-Payer Healthcare – Another View

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On August 6, my good friend, State Delegate Kirill Reznik, posted a blog on Center Maryland (“Single Payer Healthcare”) in which he took aim at a Baltimore Sun analysis of Ben Jealous’s proposed single-payer healthcare plan. Delegate Reznik criticized the Baltimore Sun and launched a pretty bitter partisan attack on Governor Hogan and all Maryland Republicans because they are not swooning at the prospect of socialized medicine in Maryland. As a member of the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission, I would like to advance several points in response.

First, the analysis relied upon by the Sun reporter was a non-partisan analysis produced by the General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services, an organization run by Senate President Mike Miller’s former Chief of Staff. The last time I checked, Senator Miller is not a Republican.

Second, the analysis stated that a single-payer plan would cost the State of Maryland $24 billion a year (the entire annual budget of Maryland is currently only $44 billion). To pay for the Jealous replacement healthcare system, Maryland would have to levy a ten percent payroll tax against every single business in Maryland and to boot increase personal income taxes by $2,800 per year on every man, woman and child in the State ($11,200 per year for a family of four). Since many families pay either no State income taxes or pay minimal taxes, the reality is that Maryland families that currently pay taxes would see their annual tax bills rise by closer to $20,000 a year.

Third, Maryland has forged a unique relationship with the federal government memorialized in a recently-signed Medicare waiver agreement. This waiver agreement ensures an annual $2 billion infusion of federal money into Maryland’s healthcare system. But the waiver agreement explicitly states that it will be voided if Maryland adopts a single-payer system. So kiss goodbye to $2 billion if the Jealous plan should be adopted.

Actually, Maryland is not the only state in which Democrats have been seduced by the siren call of socialized medicine. Under Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont walked right up to the edge of adopting a state-run single-payer healthcare system. At the last minute, Governor Shumlin pulled the plug on his plan, telling Vermont residents that the costs of the new system would be “staggering”.

Beyond the stratospheric costs of a single-payer healthcare system, the fundamental premise of any such system is that the State government would take complete and overall responsibility for the healthcare of Maryland citizens. But when the government pays all of the bills, the government necessarily controls everything. We have a pretty good model of how such a government-run healthcare system would work. It’s called the Veterans’ Administration healthcare system. Unfortunately, the VA system is synonymous with “bureaucratic”, “slow”, “inefficient” and “inadequate”. Under no circumstances will I stand before my constituents and tell them that I want to give government bureaucrats total control over their healthcare.

Finally, Delegate Reznik takes aim at increased premiums in the individual healthcare market (“Obamacare”), which only insures about 6% of Marylanders. Last year, a bi-partisan group of legislators worked very diligently to find a way to curtail the annual huge premium increases that have plagued Obamacare in Maryland since its inception eight years ago. Both Delegate Reznik and I were members of that group, known as the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission. We developed a consensus plan to institute a reinsurance pool to take the pressure off of higher premiums. Our bill overwhelmingly passed in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate (with both Delegate Reznik and me voting for it), and the Governor, Senate President Miller and Speaker Busch proudly signed it into law, hailing it as a wonderful bi-partisan achievement. Delegate Reznik’s recounting of the history of this bill, suggesting that it constituted a partisan battle between a recalcitrant Governor Hogan and a virtuous General Assembly, is simply not accurate.

We need to continue down the path of bi-partisan cooperation in order to improve Maryland’s healthcare system, not to embrace the Jealous plan to deep-six our existing system in favor of a risky, budget-busting socialist alternative.

Chris West is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 42B in Baltimore County. He is a candidate for the Maryland Senate.

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