California aims for the cliff

January 23, 2010

Remember that final scene in Thelma & Louise, when Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon drive their car over the cliff in an act of suicide? The camera freezes with the car in mid-air, and we’re treated to a series of the two women’s happiest moments on their road to death:

That’s the California Legislature, which, in the midst of a severe recession, high unemployment, and budget deficits the size of the Central Valley, wants to revive plans for a state universal health-care plan:

Democrats resurrect single-payer health care bill

With federal health care reform on life support, California Democrats on Thursday resurrected a $200 billion-a-year state-based single-payer health insurance bill.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 6-3 on party lines and without comment to lift from suspense the dead file, Senate Bill 810 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

It calls for merging the state’s public and private health insurance systems into a single California-run agency. All Californians would be eligible for insurance coverage with the poor receiving subsidized benefits.

The bill does not spell out how California would pay for a program that would cost more than twice the state’s $85 billion general fund. That would be left up to an appointed panel and ultimately, voters.

(Summary article from which the headline was taken here.)

Of course the bill doesn’t specify how this mess would be paid for; if Senator Leno and his social-democratic colleagues were honest with the public, they would admit that the only way to pay for this plan would be through new taxes and borrowing. But they can’t, because the mood of the California public is dead-set against any new taxes and debt: just last year, Propositions 1A-1F, which would have imposed a raft of new taxes in a vain attempt to plug our budget deficit, were rejected by overwhelming majorities of the voters. There’s no way the public would agree to the astronomical and economy-killing costs attendant on a single-payer “Cal-Care plan.”

And don’t think the costs the costs wouldn’t skyrocket from the “mere” $170 billion estimated in the article. Three states already have universal-coverage plans: Maine, Massachusetts, and Tennessee. All three are train wrecks. Failures. They do not control costs, because capping price is not the same as controlling costs. In Maine’s case, the program became so expensive that they had to limit enrollment, undercutting the whole raison d’etre of a single-payer system. Massachusetts is considering capping reimbursements to providers, which will inevitably lead to fewer providers taking “public” patients and longer waiting times to see doctors who do. Tennessee experienced companies ending their private health programs and putting their people on TennCare because it cost them less, but it had the unintended consequence of vastly increasing the burden on the state budget.

Leno’s plan is bizarre as a matter of politics, too. Survey after survey shows that nationalized health care is unpopular with the public, and that majority is growing. Once people realize what single-payer care means in terms of increased government interference in and control over their health care choices, most don’t want it. Surveys of Bay Staters who voted for Scott Brown in the recent special election revealed that opposition to ObamaCare was the single most important issue for most of them. And that was in a state even more liberal than California.

Think about the so-called tea-party protests of the spring and summer. Recall the angry town hall meetings when citizens told their lords and masters public servants they didn’t want ObamaCare. Witness how the Democrats have been killed in three straight elections since then, all because of opposition to nationalized health care and fiscal lunacy.

And yet the progressives in the legislature think that, somehow, California Democrats’ experience will be different?

Go ahead, Louise. Hit the gas. Just don’t take us over the cliff with you.