Nearly every human culture has a folk tale — or more than one — about an unending source of wealth. Sometimes it’s spinning straw into gold; sometimes it’s a goose that lays golden eggs or that gives golden feathers; sometimes it’s a magic hand-mill that will grind out your heart’s desire; sometimes it’s a magic purse that’s always full no matter how much you spend.
I starting thinking about these stories the other day when I read about the single-payer plan being proposed by state Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) for California. It sounds wonderful:
Under the proposal, which was announced in February, the state would cover all medical expenses for every resident regardless of their income or immigration status, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency services, dental, vision, mental health and nursing home care.
Insurers would be prohibited from offering benefits that cover the same services as the state.
The program would eliminate co-pays and deductibles, and patients would not need to get referrals to see eligible providers. The system would be administered by an unpaid nine-person board appointed by the governor and the Legislature.
Free stuff. All the free doctoring you can use, no co-pays, no deductibles, everyone covered with no competition from private insurance, run by an unpaid (!!) board of nine people who would take on administering this out of the goodness of their hearts.
There’s only one little problem: where’s the money to come from? According to the L.A. Times:
The authors say they intend to pay for the program through “broad-based revenue,” but details of a funding proposal have not been hashed out.
Political conservatives saw problems. California Gov. Jerry Brown immediately objected:
“Where do you get the extra money? This is the whole question,” Brown said in an interview after wrapping up a day’s worth of events and meetings in Washington.
Gov. Brown expanded on his comments later:
But in the wide-ranging discussion with reporters later, he dismissed any notion that it might soon be time to look for a different way to fund healthcare in California — including the idea of a single-payer, universal system.
“I don’t even get it,” said the governor. “How do you do that?”
He pointed out that the overall cost of medical care in California is equal to 18% of the state’s gross domestic product, which would be about $450 billion.
“You take a problem and say I’m going to solve it by something that’s even a bigger problem, which makes no sense,” he said.
This, of course, is the usual greedy corporate conservative talking point: that things have to be paid for somehow, and from where will the money come? … Wait, you say Brown is a liberal Democrat? Why, that’s odd.
Of course, the answer is “broad-based revenue,” which is to say they want to tax something. Anything. As Brown points out, to actually pay for all health care would mean taxing one-fifth of California’s GDP for health care alone.
Every culture has its Magic Purse, a folk tale of wealth without work, and in every one of those folk tales, when you try to take too much, you end up losing everything. The Magic Purse in our folklore is called “the government,” and California is trying hard to prove that Magic Purses really are just fairy tales.