Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders laid out his plan to achieve universal health care in the United States telling viewers watching the Sunday night Democratic debate that he would propose a tax increase for many middle-class Americans and all of the countries top earners.
"Universal health care is an idea that has been supported in the United States by Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman," Sanders said in a statement. "It is time for our country to join every other major industrialized nation on earth and guarantee health care to all citizens as a right, not a privilege."
His proposal, Sanders says, would cost roughly $1.38 trillion per year, but would save $6 trillion over the next decade when compared to the current health laws.
To achieve this, Sanders proposes a 6.2 percent payroll tax paid by employers and a 2.2 percent increase on employees. Opponents have used this proposed increase to attack Sanders for wanting to raise taxes on the middle-class but ignore how much they would be saving by not paying out of pocket for much higher health care premiums and outrageous deductibles set by the health insurance providers.
“One can certainly design a single-payer plan on paper that saves money for the middle class by reducing payments to doctors and hospitals significantly and shifting the financing of health care from premiums to a very progressive tax structure,” Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said on Sunday evening. “Whether such a plan could ever pass and be signed into law in that form is a very different question.”
Given the current political climate, Levitt is correct that such a bill would not pass, but Sanders is a lot more forward thinking than worrying about the current congress and believes his campaign will help launch a much larger political revolution that will replace many longstanding politicians who vote based on corporate contributions with politicians who are voting in the interest of the American people.
And while many on the left love Sanders ambition, some are not convinced this plan can be put into action. Vox's Ezra Klein says he is happy to raise taxes on the rich but feels that Sanders plan relies too heavily on the wealthy, unlike European models.
"In general, I'm comfortable with higher taxes on the rich — though they've risen substantially in the Obama era already — but tax increases of the scale Sanders proposes here would begin to have real economic drawbacks. European countries tend to pay for their health-care systems through more broad-based, economically efficient taxes like VATs; Sanders's effort to fund a universal health-care system so heavily on the backs of the wealthy would be unprecedented," Klein writes.
Hillary Clinton and her campaign have attacked the plan, accusing Sanders of wanting to destroy the Affordable Care Act, even sending out Clinton's daughter Chelsea to beat this drum over and over. The Sanders campaign, and even Sanders himself during Sunday's debate accused Clinton of deliberately misleading voters when it comes to his health care plan, knowing full well that by replacing the Affordable Care Act with a universal health care plan would give health insurance to even more Americans, not dismantle the ACA as Republicans are proposing without a backup plan.
Sanders is calling his plan "Medicare-for-all" but as many have pointed out the plan has nothing to do with Medicare and offers a full replacement, something that is a very big undertaking given just how ambitious the plan really is.
“This is a very generous plan,” Gerald Friedman, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told The Huffington Post. “Doing away with copays and deductibles is a big idea.”
While the idea is big and does place a great deal of burden on the wealthiest Americans, it is important to remember just how little in taxes not only the wealthy avoid playing but how little corporations pay, sometimes totalling zero dollars a year. When you increase those kinds of taxes, you bring in billions if not trillions of dollars the government was missing out on when they pandered to large corporations.
The Clinton campaign has focused on reminding the American people on how much work it took to pass the Affordable Care Act and says they do not want to go through it again, yet Sanders is insisting the hard work will have a massive payoff and isn't ready to just settle with continuity and wants to revolutionize the nation.