With Democrat control in the House, Senate, and White House, Democrats are ramping up for the ride of their lives. Control of both the executive and legislative branches could give them unchecked power to advance their agenda of more government and more spending. And with Democrats’ sights set on sweeping health-care and welfare reforms like “Medicare for All,” Americans should brace themselves for a potential tidal wave of change.
Despite its skyrocketing premiums, canceled health insurance plans, and fewer health-care choices, Joe Biden adamantly defended Obamacare throughout his presidential campaign. Going several steps further, he signaled his support for the addition of a public option — at a cost of nearly $1 trillion — during the campaign; chose Kamala Harris, Senate co-sponsor of Medicare-for-All legislation, as his running mate; and put forth Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra, another staunch defender of Obamacare, has also gone on record supporting a Medicare for All–type system.
No matter how many times Biden suggests that he wants incremental change, the truth is any kind of public option in our health-care system is likely to destroy the system as we know it. Rural hospitals — many of which are already struggling — could be forced to close as reimbursement rates drop. Indeed, estimates suggest that as many as 55 percent of rural hospitals would be placed at a high risk of closure under the Biden public option. Many doctors won’t participate, resulting in fewer options for patients. And long wait lists could begin to characterize the American health-care system, as they already do in Canada.
The financial cost of a public option would also be astronomical. Taxes would go up on the middle class to pay for such a system. Individuals with private insurance would be forced to help pay for a public option they don’t need, and the cost of private insurance would increase, too. It’s not exactly a win-win.
And while this burgeoning government-run health-care system may be wreaking havoc on hardworking Americans, a three-way Democrat hold over our nation’s welfare system may also lend itself to sweeping welfare reforms that expand dependency and make the path to self-sufficiency that much more difficult.
With full control of the federal government, Democrats are likely to continue their push to expand Medicaid in states that have, thus far, resisted Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion trap. States that have already expanded Medicaid to include able-bodied, childless adults quickly enrolled twice as many able-bodied adults than they anticipated, blowing their state budgets and leaving states scrambling to make ends meet. As a result, millions of able-bodied adults have become dependent on the government for health care and are missing out on the power of independence. A number of states have applied for waivers to employ proven common-sense work requirements to help move individuals from welfare to work, but even they have met partisan opposition from the left and President Biden himself.
It’s true that Democrats have a history of promoting dependency and discouraging work in our welfare programs. Under the Obama administration, then–U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack pressured states to relax statutory work requirements on able-bodied, childless adults on food stamps and expand program eligibility. Unsurprisingly, the food stamp program grew such that by 2017, when the Trump administration took office, more Americans were enrolled in food stamps than the entire population of Canada. What’s worse, Biden has recently announced Vilsack will be returning to his post in the Department of Agriculture under his administration.
Over the past four years, the Trump administration made great strides to increase welfare program integrity and reduce government dependency, ultimately to preserve resources for the truly needy and support individuals’ ability to achieve independence. And in health care, the Trump administration sought to expand consumer access to lower-cost, high-quality health insurance products to restore patient control over health care. But with Democrats in charge, many of those accomplishments may be undone.
Though they may have the numbers to ram through a leftist agenda, if nothing else the 2020 elections have shown us that Americans are deeply divided on a vision for our future. Now is the time for our elected leaders to work together to build on the principles of independence and freedom, not invoke a nonexistent left-wing mandate. There’s too much at stake.
Nick Stehle is the vice president of communications at the Foundation for Government Accountability.