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Maryland Analysts: Ben Jealous' Single-Payer Health Care Could Cost State $24 Billion A Year

“State-sponsored health insurance for all Marylanders such as the single-payer plan proposed by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous could cost $24 billion a year, forcing lawmakers to significantly raise taxes, according to a nonpartisan analysis.”

The Baltimore Sun
Luke Broadwater
July 17, 2018

“State-sponsored health insurance for all Marylanders such as the single-payer plan proposed by Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous could cost $24 billion a year, forcing lawmakers to significantly raise taxes, according to a nonpartisan analysis.

“Such a cost would increase the state’s $44 billion operating budget by more than half.

“The analysis, drafted by the state’s Department of Legislative Services and released to The Baltimore Sun, said Maryland would have to levy a 10 percent payroll tax against every business and charge a $2,800 fee for every man, woman and child to pay for a new health care system in which doctors bill the state instead of private insurance companies.

“Clearly, any single-payer program represents a significant restructuring of the State’s current health care delivery system and tax system,’ the analysts wrote. …

“It would be premature to say’ what new taxes or tax increases would be proposed, Harris said. …

“This analysis shows just how dangerously irresponsible, unaffordable and unworkable Ben Jealous’ plan would be for our citizens and our economy,’ Hogan campaign spokesman Doug Mayer said in an email. ‘Voters know there is no such thing as a free lunch, and under Jealous’ program middle-class Marylanders would be crushed by tens of billions in new taxes that would send our economy into a tailspin.’ …

“Dan Johnston, assistant director of research for National Nurses United, said Jealous could use a number of options to pay for the system: sales tax increases, payroll tax increases and income tax increases.

“There are different tax schemes you could do. We looked at different types of financing mechanisms…’ …

“The $24 billion estimate for the cost of a single-payer system did not include existing spending on Medicare, by the Veterans Administration and the military healthcare system, the analysts said.

“The spending could grow if the federal government withdrew Medicaid coverage or the state’s administration of health care billing proved costly, the analysis noted.

“A single-payer system would disrupt Maryland’s unique approach to paying for health care.

“The state and federal government have entered into an ‘all-payer’ contract in which the federal government provides about $1.8 billion more in funds than it would otherwise for Medicare, the government health system for older Americans.

“That contract would be voided if the state moves to a single-payer system, said Gene M. Ransom III, CEO of the Maryland State Medical Society. Ransom, who represents doctors across the state, said he worries about the disruption caused by a shift toward a single-payer system. He thinks it will cost much more than the state analysts say.

“If the current deal with the federal government is tossed out, Maryland could lose funding for the new Prince George’s County hospital, Ransom said.

“I have a small percentage of doctors who really want to do single-payer,’ he said. ‘I have more who don’t. This would be a major, major change. I’m really worried about these practical aspects.’ …

“Ben Jealous and I agree on a vast majority of progressive ideas to move Maryland forward, but a state-based single-payer health plan is not one of them,’ she said. ‘While it is a worthwhile discussion at the federal level, it is too expensive and unworkable for a state to take on individually — especially for Maryland, given our unique situation with the long-standing federal Medicare waiver that establishes an all-payer system for our hospitals.”

“Mizeur called the waiver ‘the backbone of our state’s health care system’ that could be put at risk with the change Jealous is proposing.

“Sometimes an idea sounds great,’ she said, ‘but when we look at the details of how it would actually be implemented, we can see that it is not a good approach.”