July 19, 2019 | Updates

ICYMI: Media Calls Out ‘Incoherence’ & ‘Absurdity’ Of Senator Harris’s Position On Medicare For All

WASHINGTON – In an interview with CNN, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) reinforces her support for Senator Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) one-size-fits-all Medicare for all legislation, of which she is a co-sponsor, but at the same time claims she is “not in support of middle class families paying more taxes for it.”

When CNN’s Kyung Lah points out that “study after study” shows the cost of a Medicare for all system would be upwards of $30 trillion over a decade and “Senator Sanders says that that is impossible to achieve without a middle-class tax hike,” Harris claims “there are ways to pay for it” without raising taxes on middle-class families, but fails to fully explain what those “ways” are.  Senator Harris again dodges when asked: “When people question that there is no formula for this –that you are going to find money in magical ways, is not realistic thinking, how do you respond to that?”

At New York Magazine, Eric Levitz examines the “fundamental incoherence” and “substantive absurdity” of Senator Harris’s statements, as significant middle-class tax increases are a hallmark of the Medicare for all policy she supports:

Kamala Harris’s position on Medicare for All has never made much sense.  From the dawn of her campaign, the California senator has made a $2 trillion middle-class tax cut her signature economic policy.  At the first Democratic primary debate, Harris confirmed that passing this “middle-class and working families tax cut” would be her top legislative priority.  And yet, the Democratic 2020 hopeful simultaneously insisted that she supported Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan, a policy that would move virtually all health-care spending in the U.S. onto the federal government’s books, and finance the resulting $3.2 trillion increase in annual spending with broad-based tax increases.  Which is to say: If you took Harris at her word, her legislative plan for 2021 would be to first pass a law massively cutting middle-class taxes, and then pass a second law radically increasing them.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg examines the claim by proponents of Medicare for all that in spite of higher taxes, families would ultimately save money under the system, and finds that “[f]or many Americans, though, that would not be true,” and “higher taxes would exceed any savings.” They report:

Yet the 181 million taxpayers with employer-sponsored coverage could miss out on the benefits of the Sanders plan, and even those receiving Medicaid could pay more, according to health-care policy experts on both sides of the political spectrum … Sanders has proposed a wealth tax, a bank levy and premiums paid by employers and employees.  But that 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.  “There are likely to be a lot more losers than winners,” Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute … Many of the 181 million taxpayers with employer-sponsored coverage are likely to see their taxes go higher than their current health care spending, because about 56% of their medical costs are covered by their company, according to the Milliman Medical Index, which tracks annual health care spending.  For example, a person making $50,000 with employer-sponsored coverage spends about $5,250 annually on health care, meaning that under Sanders’s plan, her or his taxes would be nearly double the person’s current health care costs … Those on Medicaid, the government-sponsored insurance program for the poor, are likely to see their tax burdens rise far beyond their current health spending, Riedl said.  A family of four earning $30,000 spends about $1,200 annually on health costs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.  Sanders’ plan also assumes that health providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates, about 40% below what they receive from private insurers.  Health care experts question whether a cut this large is feasible, meaning that the cost for Medicare for All could be even higher.

And while Sanders and others acknowledge that Medicare for all would raise taxes on middle-class families, fact-checkers for The Washington Post note that “[a]ccording to a study from the Urban Institute (and a follow-up paper) … Senator Sanders’s proposed tax increase would be insufficient and that additional revenue would be needed.” CNN reports that “[t]ax experts … say that you can’t raise enough money from taxing the rich and that the levies on all Americans may exceed the savings for more people than Sanders expects.  This may be particularly true of low-income folks who get heavily subsidized coverage on the Obamacare exchanges … ‘His plan still doesn’t add up,’ [Marc] Goldwein [of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB)] said … ‘To generate the kind of revenue that Sanders is talking about to pay for something as big as his version of Medicare for All … would be vastly more expensive than any of the kinds of things he’s talking about,’ said Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank.  ‘He’s going to have to come up with more money from some place.’”  That place is the bank accounts of middle-class Americans: “There’s no possible way to finance [Medicare for all] without big middle class tax increases,” CRFB’s Goldwein explained to The Washington Post.

While many Americans are only beginning to learn how a one-size-fits-all system would affect their health care – such as eliminating their present coverage and threatening their access to the quality care they need and deserve – public opinion research shows that most are well aware of the unaffordable tax hikes they’d be hit with. 

“There’s one thing Americans understand about Medicare-for-all: It would mean higher taxes … Americans seem most familiar with the fact that Medicare-for-all would require massively higher taxes,” The Washington Post reports of a recent national poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  As Kaiser writes of their findings, “eight in 10 Americans (78%) are aware that taxes would increase for most people under such a plan.” 
A national poll by Kaiser revealed that 60 percent oppose Medicare for all when they learn it would require most Americans to pay higher taxes.

And while often described as more “moderate” than Medicare for all, new government insurance systems such as Medicare “buy-in” or a “public option” would ultimately lead down the same path to a one-size-fits-all government-run health care system – with all the same unaffordable costs, tax increases, and threats to patients’ choices, access and quality of care.



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