Fact Check: Have States Across the Country Rejected Single-Payer Healthcare?

July 10, 2019 / Colorado Springs Gazette
Normal ECG line representing claims that are true

The Colorado Springs Gazette recently argued that a national single-payer healthcare system makes no sense because states across the country have rejected the same model.

CLAIM #1: Vermont rejected a single-payer system that would have abolished private healthcare because the price tag was too expensive.

FACT: This is correct. In 2011, then-Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signed a bill to create a single-payer healthcare program in Vermont. After four years of study, officials determined that eliminating private health coverage in favor of a single-payer system would require a new payroll tax of 11.5% and a state income tax hike of up to 9.5%. According to Governing Magazine, Gov. Shumlin “decided at the end of 2014 to kill the single-payer plan altogether.”

In a 2017 interview with Harvard University’s School of Public Health, Gov. Shumlin defended his decision because “when you move from a premium driven system to one that’s supported by taxes, the tax rates … were quite staggering.”

While most of the attention was focused on tax hikes, Gov. Shumlin also warned that creating the kind of cash reserves that private insurance companies must maintain would also have crippled the state budget.

“We found, in our little state, that the reserve, when we did the research, was going to be roughly 10 years of our state bonding capacity,” Gov. Shumlin said. “We literally would have had to say to Vermonters, to build that reserve, there can be no investment in infrastructure for a decade. Because we need that money, that current money, to build adequate reserves.”

CLAIM #2: California has also rejected single-payer healthcare over cost concerns.

FACT: This is correct. In 2017, California lawmakers studied and rejected a proposed single-payer healthcare system. The decision to reject single-payer followed a cost estimate from state budget officials of $400 billion per year, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The Sacramento Bee also reported that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) “publicly expressed deep skepticism about how to fund a program that’s more than twice the state budget.” California’s business community also rallied against the proposal, which was certain to impose massive costs on employers and the state’s workforce – even if the authors of the proposal did not specify how they would raise the money needed to fund the single-payer program.

The California Chamber of Commerce said the tax hike needed to fund the program would be the equivalent of a 15% payroll tax, for example. The Chamber warned the single-payer proposal was “certain to penalize responsible employers and individuals and result in significant new taxes on all Californians and California businesses.”

CLAIM #3: Colorado voters have rejected single-payer healthcare.

FACT: This is correct. Activist groups put a single-payer healthcare plan on the ballot in 2016 which would have raised taxes by $25 billion per year – roughly doubling the size of the state budget.

It was broadly opposed across the political spectrum and was defeated by a very wide margin – 79% to 21%.