October 18, 2019 | Updates

Debate Highlights Unaffordable Costs Of Government-Controlled Health Insurance

WASHINGTON – This week’s presidential debate cast a bright spotlight on the unaffordable costs and serious political risks associated with Medicare for all, as proponents continued to obfuscate when asked questions concerning how the one-size-fits-all system’s high price tag would hit middle class families.

CNN notes that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) “repeated dodges on questions about whether Medicare for All would result in higher taxes … laid bare the political risks of Warren’s backing of Sanders’ Medicare for All, and foreshadowed that she is likely to continue confronting questions and criticism about tax hikes that could result from Sanders’ proposal.”  They report:

[Warren’s campaign] did not provide details on what “other revenue options” the campaign is studying, and declined to comment on whether Warren may eventually put out her own details on paying for Medicare for All …  Warren’s campaign statement comes on the heels of a contentious presidential debate Tuesday night in Ohio, where Warren was asked no less than half a dozen times on stage about whether Sanders’ signature health care platform would raise taxes on the middle class and how she would like to pay for it.  Every time, the Massachusetts Democrat … refused to state that taxes would, in fact, go up for some Americans under her colleague’s plan … The grilling continued well after the debate ended.  In an interview with CNN anchors and analysts later that spanned close to 20 minutes, Warren was again pressed multiple times to acknowledge that Sanders’ Medicare for All plan would result in tax hikes for some American families.  Once again, she stuck to her script.”

The Washington Post’s  Karen Tumulty also takes note of Warren’s “repeated evasion of a question put to her by moderator Marc Lacey of the New York Times: Would her Medicare-for-all proposal require an increase in taxes on the middle class?  Instead of answering what was a straightforward, yes-or-no question, Warren talked about her ‘principles,’” while The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes that “the most important news [to come from this week’s debate] was Senator Elizabeth Warren’s determined refusal to say if her plans would require taxes to increase on the middle class.”  They continue:

Ms. Warren, the new leader in the polls, was given at least six chances to answer yes or no. She ducked every time … Mr. Sanders, who wrote the Medicare for All bill that Ms. Warren has endorsed, then admitted what everyone except Ms. Warren admits, which is that taxes will rise for everybody … On Medicare for All, everyone agrees that the cost will be at least $32 trillion over 10 years.  Ms. Warren could impose her wealth tax, her higher taxes on capital gains, her higher income taxes on the affluent, and she still wouldn’t come close to paying for Medicare for All. 

Shedding additional light on some of these new unaffordable costs, a new study from the Urban Institute finds “that federal spending on health care would increase by roughly $34 trillion under a single-payer plan similar to Medicare for All,” CNN reports.

As The Washington Examiner explains, the new study finds that “it will cost the federal government under Medicare for All an extra $7 trillion to provide the same level of care as today’s system would provide at the lower price.  Under Medicare for All, overall national healthcare spending would increase from $52 trillion to $59 trillion.  In other words, instead of bending the cost curve downward for the public and private entities and individuals who finance healthcare, Medicare for All would increase healthcare costs over what is currently projected.”

And as the bill’s co-sponsors also continued to incorrectly claim on the debate stage that Medicare for all would “lower overall costs for all but the wealthiest Americans,” Bloomberg reports that without taxing the middle class, Warren is “$30 Trillion Short of Paying for Her Health Plan.”

“Her taxes as they currently exist are not enough yet to cover fully replacing health insurance,” University of California, Berkeley economics professor Emmanuel Saez, who advised the Warren campaign when developing the wealth tax, told Bloomberg News on Wednesday … Sanders acknowledged in Tuesday’s debate that “taxes will go up,” but neither of them have detailed how much or who those taxes would hit … “She is offering a Medicare for All plan and not offering even close to enough to pay for it,” said Kyle Pomerleau, the chief economist at the conservative Tax Foundation … [T]here wouldn’t be enough revenue from top earners and corporations to fund the estimated $30 trillion 10-year cost for Medicare for All.  She’d have to find more revenue streams and that would have to include increasing taxes on the middle class, according to public finance experts across the political spectrum. 

The fact is, “[t]here’s no possible way to finance [Medicare for all] without big middle class tax increases,” Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) explained to The Washington Post.  And, “economists say that most taxpayers would pay more in taxes than they would save from having the federal government absorb the cost of health-care premiums,” The Post also reports.

Bloomberg previously reported that “for many [Americans], higher taxes would exceed any savings … [T]he 181 million taxpayers with employer-sponsored coverage could miss out on the benefits of [Medicare for all], and even those receiving Medicaid could pay more, according to health-care policy experts on both sides of the political spectrum … [A] wealth tax, a bank levy and premiums paid by employers and employees … only raises about half of what is needed, meaning that payroll taxes and income tax increases would necessarily have to be part of the plan.”

Meanwhile, the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 60 percent oppose Medicare for all when they learn it would require most Americans to pay higher taxes.  And Voter Vitals – a quarterly tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states – finds that a majority of Democratic voters are unwilling to pay any more in taxes for universal coverage and a supermajority of Democrats (69 percent) support building and improving on what we have today over new government insurance systems.

This is one reason, as The Hill reports, that Medicare for all is losing support in the polls.” 

[M]oderate candidates called the plan a “pipe dream” and an “obliteration” of the private health insurance system … Several polls showed support dropping or plateauing for Medicare for All throughout the summer … A Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) tracking poll released Tuesday showed support has dropped 5 points, and opposition increased 8 points,since April, two months before the first Democratic primary debate.



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