Counting the True Cost of Government Monopoly Health Care

You’re going to pay more in taxes. But at the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of people are going to end up paying less for health care because they’re not paying premiums, co-payments and deductibles.” That was Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders at a recent media event. Taxpayers might find it strange that the evangelists of government monopoly health care fail to tabulate the costs of government systems such as Medi-Cal, the Golden State’s health plan for low-income individuals and families. The legislative analyst estimates the costs of funding Medi-Cal at $20.7 billion, but does not break down outlays that, to say the least, are questionable.

According to an April 17 story from the USC Center for Health Journalism Collaborative, 27 years ago a woman named Claudia Navarro came to California to “seek medical help” for her daughter born with spina bifida. Navarro “obtained limited Medi-Cal benefits for her child, despite her immigration status, and arranged treatments that kept her daughter alive.” The cost of spina bifida surgery can range as high as $30,000, an amount that can easily be spent in the first year of treatment. The story does not tabulate the entire costs to California taxpayers, but it gives some clue about the dimensions of the problem.

According to the story, 1.5 million “uninsured and undocumented immigrants in California are forced to weigh the benefits and potential risks of using public services.” This might weigh against them when they apply for a green card. As this writer, an immigrant, can verify, those who apply for green cards must demonstrate that they will not become a public charge, as the authors explain, “a burden on taxpayers.” Claudia Navarro and 1.5 million others want to burden U.S. taxpayers and not have it count against them.

Governor Gavin Newsom wants to expand Medi-Cal, the state’s program for low-income people, to every Californian under age 26, regardless of immigration status. According to an official government Medi-Cal website, that is already the case. “You do not have to be a citizen or have satisfactory immigration status to qualify for Medi-Cal,” and those lacking official status are “entitled to emergency and pregnancy-related services and, when needed, state-funded long-term care.” And as the government health site also explains, “if you are not registered to vote where you live now and would like to apply to register to vote today please visit this website or call 1-800-345-VOTE (8683).” So Medi-Cal, like the DMV, is a multi-tasking agency.

Meanwhile, as the Health Journalism Collaborative article explains, Claudia Navarro is now 51, living in Los Angeles, and her adult children “are on Medi-Cal.” Medi-Cal is not exactly up-front about the taxpayer funds it spends on people like that. If shorn of premiums and deductibles, will Americans still be paying for systems like Medi-Cal, which service anybody from anywhere in the world who happens to show up? Bernie Sanders isn’t saying.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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