Ever since Senator Bernie Sanders made “Medicare for All” (M4A) the centerpiece of his campaign, it has attracted support, and others have joined the bandwagon. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll earlier this year, 56 percent of respondents and 81 percent of Democrats backed “a national health plan, sometimes called Medicare for all,” which has been used to assert a mandate for M4A.
Medicare’s Unfunded Liability
Since exactly what M4A details (where the devil lurks) are less than crystal clear, and even the best-articulated versions are more like political talking points than complete plans, backed by questionable, if not provably incorrect assumptions, the goal is clearly to pass a bill that would be very hard to undo before most citizens have any clear idea of what is involved.
Consequently, it is important to remember what most stories hyping the popularity of M4A leave out: When people were informed it would entail a massive increase in costs and taxes, support cratered. Given that Sanders’ proposal could add $3.2 trillion in annual government spending (when America now spends $3.5 trillion annually on health care), that is easy to understand. However, there is also another multi-trillion-dollar reason why many who now support M4A might switch sides: Medicare’s massive unfunded liability.
As with other Social Security expansions, when Medicare was created in 1966, those in or near retirement paid little or no more in taxes but got substantial benefits throughout retirement. That imposed a large unfunded off-budget liability on later generations. And every expansion since (most recently, Medicare Part D’s prescription drug benefit, whose officially estimated unfunded liability at the time was $17 trillion) has created another free lunch for those older, expanding the huge tab facing later generations.
The same sort of conclusions were reached in an Urban Institute study of Medicare, which found that in 2012, average-earning males were “buying” $180,000 in Medicare benefits for $61,000, while similarly situated females, with smaller lifetime contributions and longer life expectancies, did even better.
The result, as reported by Michael Tanner, was a 2015 forecast of almost $48 trillion of unfunded liabilities under implausibly optimistic assumptions. A return to higher medical cost inflation rates could make it $88 trillion. A continuance of lower birthrates than forecast would push it higher. So would including future commitments to recipients who have qualified for but not yet received all their benefits as of the end date of a study.
So why might recognizing that massive unfunded liability and its continued expansion move Americans into the “anti-M4A” camp?
Because of the wealth transfer to early enrollees, as well as from ensuing expansions, Medicare provided many with a great deal. But that deal was the result of dumping an enormous bill on future generations (bigger than the unfunded liabilities for Social Security plus the national debt).
With that bill starting to arrive, Medicare is not even close to sustainable in its present form, much less to be leveraged to cover the entire population (although one can understand the vote-buying potential in promising massive new M4A generational transfers).
Not only is a massive expansion of an already far-in-the-hole Medicare program a fool’s errand, but the massive unfunded liabilities it has built up also mean that the previous costs were far higher than what recipients paid and continue to be so (even underestimates of its unfunded liability growth add more than $1 trillion per year of hidden costs to Medicare).
As a result, Medicare was a far worse deal than M4A salesmen and women admit, and it is now decaying at an increasing rate, making its extension to all a 14-digit boondoggle, not a boon. And doubling (or more) down on the already unpayable burdens Medicare has laid on future generations also highlights the blatant hypocrisy of backers who, at the same time, preen about all the new plans they have to “invest in the future.”
Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. His opinions are his own. This article originally appeared on fee.org, then pennypress.com Reprinted with permission.
Oooooh…The President said “Bullshit” in a tweet as a description of Adam Schiff’s and Nancy Pelosi’s actions in the latest kafuffle regarding his phone call with the President of the Ukraine. That’s a comment even Schiff can understand.
And at least two of the three broadcast TV news divisions could not resist mentioning it.
This is nuts.
You want an enemy of the people? Just watch the evening news. Even during the dog days of Viet Nam it wasn’t this bad. ABC and CBS should be ashamed.
Most of these clowns cannot see or admit that something smells, even when the derelict son of a then-sitting Vice President took huge amounts of money from companies in the very countries his father was assigned to monitor. What a coincidence! Even some Pulitzer Prize winning twit at the Wall Street Journal called the Biden corruption “widely discredited.” Which should bring a new level of scrutiny to the Pulitzer Prizes.
I have a friend of long standing, who, among other positions in a long, distinguished career of public service, served as a United States Attorney. He has a serious understanding of the United States Code. Asked if he could cite any specific portion of the law which the President could have violated with the phone call being bandied about by Adam Schiff, here was his reply: “No treason. No bribery. No criminal conduct.”
This “impeachment” inquiry has zero basis in law and, if it goes too much further, will be regretted by the saner elements (if there are any) of the Democrat Party should it ever gain any serious power again.
They are making this crap up as they go along. And here’s a big hint it’s crap. None of the TV lawyers on the various cable channels can name a single section of the U.S. Code that the President appears to have violated.
Now keep something in mind. Every day, the average American commits three felonies. So argues civil-liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate in his book Three Felonies a Day, the title of which refers to the number of crimes he estimates that Americans perpetrate each day because of vague and overly burdensome laws. Yet, all the media and Democrats can talk about where President Trump is concerned are generalities. Collusion is not a crime. Asking a fellow head of state to look into a former sitting government official’s actions is not a crime.
This is purely political.
And it will surely come back to bite certain purveyors of Trump conspiracy theories on their well upholstered asses.
As I am writing this, I just heard Jessica Tarlov tell Fox news that this was “an abuse of power” and thus a “constitutional violation”. Well…that was certainly a valid use of her Bryn Mawr College B.A. in history and two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in political science and government from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
It’s just amazing what professors teach people these days.
The Constitution is NOT to be confused with the law. It is a framework. The Constitution does not codify “abuse of power.” Ms. Tarlov is a classic know nothing who was educated by people who know less.
And yet, Fox uses her so it can trumpet Fair and Balanced as if having a slightly older Greta Thunberg parrot Democrat talking points allows a conversation to be “balanced.”
Undoing an election means telling 63,000,000 Americans to pound sand.
Before these leftist screamers take the first step to doing exactly that, maybe they ought to consider what other nations look like which try to tamper with the will of the people.
Look closely at Hong Kong. Or Great Britain, where the elites are trying to not do what the public voted for in Brexit.
What might the reaction of 63,000,000 voters be if the elites in Washington keep it up?