After Republican lawmakers failed to pass an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, it seemed that the fight on healthcare was dead, at least for the time being. However, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced his “Medicare-for-all” bill on Wednesday.
The bill attempts to put a single-payer health care system into place that, as he states, would allow millions more US residents to receive healthcare benefits.
He states, “We remain the only major country on earth that allows chief executives and stockholders in the health care industry to get incredibly rich, while tens of millions of people suffer because they can’t get the health care they need.” He adds, “this is not what the United States should be about.”
And while we may not like the way the health care system operates now, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, many believe that Sanders’ “Medicare-for-all” plan won’t solve any real issues.
Let’s look at some of those.
First, there is the matter of economics.
Sanders plans that a single-payer – the federal government – will be responsible for all healthcare costs for all Americans. Currently, the government does assist in healthcare funding, as state and local governments, private insurance companies, and other entities.
A plan of that magnitude is going to need an enormous amount of funding and Sanders while releasing a list of potential options, has not proposed an exact plan for such payment. Some of his possible options are to raise individual income tax to 4%, implement a 7.5% payroll tax on employers, and put more taxes on the wealthy and corporations. And even then, experts estimate that the high cost of $32 trillion plan cannot be reached.
Basically, the average middle-class American will get the raw end of the deal. The idea is that giving Medicare to everyone will decrease the amount of out-of-pocket expenses the average individual must pay. However, the cost to those lower expenses and reduced premiums from private insurance companies means higher taxes.
Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow in health policy at the Urban Institute, says, “So depending on the person’s income and the way the program is financed…people’s taxes are likely to go up substantially.”
For some, this could mean that they would actually spend more on taxes than they would have in healthcare expenses, and it may just not be worth it. However, since the plan would end all private and employer-based insurance companies, they wouldn’t have another option.
And while having a single-payer system may initially lower administrative costs and allow the government to be more effective in negotiating drug prices for the average person, it would drive overall spending on healthcare up, according to a senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, Larry Levitt. With more people covered and no copays or deductibles, people would go to the doctor more often, therefore spending more.
Secondly, there is the fact that this is all just a political ploy for power.
The bill simply won’t pass, at not this time. There are too many unknowns, and Sanders knows it. Nevertheless, it is being used as a way to unite leftists in the Democratic party. NPR’s Scott Detrow said it like this, “The whole thing is more about political framing – getting Democrats to the point where this would be a top priority whenever the party is back in power.”
When Sanders first began speaking about socialized insurance back in 2013, he received zero support. He didn’t have one single co-sponsor. Now, however, he has 16, including several of his Democratic primary opponents. This is proof that the party is moving further to the left and that the idea of a single-payer system is becoming more popular.
However, the added support for the bill may still not be enough. Recent polls show that while it is more popular than it has been in years past, the numbers fluctuate drastically given what is being said about the plan. When it is mentioned that taxes will be raised support immediately suffers. And when lower out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles are announced, it becomes more popular.
Plus, people don’t like the idea of not having a choice. With the system as it is now, you can choose with whom and where you are insured for the most part. But with Sanders’ plan, there is no choice, giving the government absolute control and being one step closer to a socialist or communist government.