OPINION: Universal healthcare sounds great, but what are the true costs?

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Is California really going to have single-payer healthcare system? Democratic candidates for the governor of California have been issuing bad checks all around. Voters should be aware of the true costs of healthcare.

Californian voters will elect a new governor in 2018. Six gubernatorial candidates gathered for a debate on January 13. Healthcare was among the top topics. Four of the candidates were Democrats. Two were Republicans. Based on the political reality, the next governor is sure to be one of the four Democrats: Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, State Treasurer John Chiang, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. No matter who it will be, they all support single-payer healthcare system.

However, up until now, none of the four Democratic candidates, including Chiang, can clearly spell out the funding source of a single-payer healthcare system and exactly how much tax hike will be needed.

The single-payer healthcare system was first proposed in SB 562 by the Democrats last year. It would have stripped insurance companies from California. The state would have been responsible for paying all medical expenditure directly. No co-pay and deductible will be needed when you visit a doctor. Medicines will also be free. The state will set up a brand new bureaucracy to process, screen and pay for all the medical expenses for the 40 million Californians. The existing Medicare and Medi-Cal cards will be abolished. Covered California will fold into universal healthcare. Employers will no longer provide group health insurance. The state will be the sole “bookmaker”. What a monumental change it will be.

On June 23, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced that he had decided SB 562 will remain in the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice, calling the bill “woefully incomplete.” Seemingly endorsing this slap in the face act, Gov. Jerry Brown followed by saying in a statement “I recognize the tremendous excitement behind the measure, but basic and fundamental questions remain unanswered”, hinting there is simply not enough money in the budget to support universal healthcare. Brown and Rendon were subsequently blasted by some unions and special interest groups.

Oddly, ever since SB 562 was shot down, many Democrats no longer mentioned “free” universal healthcare. Every time they only uttered “single-payer system” without explaining where the money would come from. Therefore, we would like to question the Democratic gubernatorial candidates:

1. Is this “single-payer system” universal healthcare indeed “free”? In other words, are doctor visits, hospital stays and prescription drugs are all free?

In order to sustain this “single-payer system” universal healthcare, how much more taxes will the taxpayers have to pay? Will it be on payroll tax, sale tax or property tax?

If the federal government refuses to support the Californian universal healthcare(Trump wants to repeal Obamacare. Think he is willing to give more to Californian universal healthcare?) and cut or eliminate federal    funding, how would California find another funding source?

The annual price tag for SB 562 was estimated by the state Senate Appropriations Committee to be about $400 billion, tripling the general fund in the annual state budget. Although some optimistic Democrats estimated it to be $300 billion, it’s still an astronomical number. No wonder nobody wants to talk about where the money would come from.

Chiang said in the debate that California can learn from the single-payer system universal healthcare adopted by Taiwan for many years.

However, it’s not “free” in the Taiwanese healthcare system. In addition to monthly premium for each person, there is a small copay for doctor visit. Their second generation health insurance required “supplemental premium” since 2013 to sustain the universal healthcare and prevent insolvency.

We support universal healthcare and are not opposed to single-payer system, but are strongly against those gubernatorial candidates who have been issuing bad checks and increasing taxes. To the Democrats, please tell us how would you pay for the universal healthcare expenses?

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