October 17, 2019 | Updates

It’s Time To Get Real: Medicare For All Will Raise Taxes On Middle Class Families

WASHINGTON – On the presidential debate stage this week, Medicare for all proponents once again obfuscated when questions were raised about the unaffordable tax increases middle class families would be forced to pay under a one-size-fits-all government-controlled health insurance system.  The bill’s co-sponsors also continued to incorrectly claim that Medicare for all would “lower overall costs for all but the wealthiest Americans.”

  • The New York Times“Ms. Warren has repeatedly faced questions about how she would pay for ‘Medicare for all,’ which she supports.  In particular, she has consistently declined to specify whether she would raise taxes on the middle class to help finance such a system.  Instead, Ms. Warren has tried to reframe the issue around the total costs that families would face under Medicare for all. In the past, she has said that costs would go up for ‘the very wealthy and big corporations,’ but they would go down for families in the middle class.”
  • The Washington PostWarren again refused to say whether Medicare-for-all would result in higher taxes for the middle class or talk specifically about how it would eliminate employer-sponsored coverage for 160 million Americans.  She notably vowed that her plan would not raise overall costs for the middle-class, and evaded the specific issue of taxes … Sanders and Warren, who are aligned on the most expansion version of Medicare-for-all, have faced tricky questions of how they’d pay for it and why they would need to do away with the private health insurance industry.”
  • Vice News“Sen. Elizabeth Warren was knocked back on her heels for the first time in months during Tuesday’s debate, struggling to parry questions on whether Medicare for All would increase middle-class taxes as her primary opponents piled on … ‘I do think it is appropriate to acknowledge that taxes will go up, they’re going to go up significantly, for the wealthy, and for virtually everybody, the tax increase they pay will be substantially less, substantially less, than what they were paying for premiums and out of pocket expenses,’ [Sanders] said.”
  • Wall Street Journal“[Warren and Sanders] both want Medicare for All, including the end of private health insurance.  The main difference is that Mr. Sanders admits he’d raise taxes on the middle class, while Ms. Warren ducks the question.”
  • CNBC“Democratic presidential candidates tore into Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday after she dodged questions on whether middle-class Americans would have to pay more in taxes under her ‘Medicare for All’ proposal … A moderator followed up: ‘You have not specified how you’re going to pay for the most expensive plan, Medicare for All.  Will you raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it?  Yes or no?’  Warren again avoided a direct answer to that question, prompting a sharp response from South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg … Klobuchar, too, noted that Sanders has been clear that middle-class taxes will go up under Medicare for All, though he maintains that overall costs will go down.
  • Vox“Warren took the first health care question from moderators: Would her health care plan raise taxes on the middle class?  She dodged the narrow question of whether taxes would increase … Warren was quickly criticized from both the right and the left: Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) tweaked Warren repeatedly for not saying that taxes would need to increase to pay for a single-payer Medicare-for-all plan that covers every American.  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who wrote the Senate Medicare-for-all bill that Warren supports, said Warren wasn’t being direct about the implications of the plan … [Sanders] said he would be direct about the need for tax increases — an implicit dig at Warren, his top rival for progressive votes.”
  • The Daily Beast“Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) … [was] pummeled by her competitors on a familiar front: her refusal to say whether taxes will go up on middle-income Americans as part of her plan to expand Medicare to cover every American … But while Warren has studiously avoided saying that her plan would result in a tax hike, Sanders has conceded the point, but argued that any increase in the middle class tax bill will be offset by lower health care costs.”

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:

Although [Medicare for all’s supporters] have frequently stressed that the middle class would see overall costs go down, a wide range of experts … say it is impossible to make those guarantees based on the plans that the candidates have outlined so far.  “Obviously, all of the 180 million people who have private insurance are not going to pay less.  It’s impossible to have an ‘everybody wins’ scenario here,” said Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the health policy department at Emory University.  “The plan is by design incredibly disruptive.  As a result, you create enormous winners and losers.”  “There’s no question it hits the middle class,” he added.  John Holahan, a health policy expert at the nonpartisan Urban Institute agreed: “Even though high-income people are going to pay a lot more, this has to hit the middle class.”…“Most of the proposals to move to Medicare-for-all would involve substantial tax increases that would affect most people,” said Katherine Baicker, an economist at the University of Chicago who specializes in health policy.  “These are going to be big tax increases.  The tax brackets may have to shift.  You may have to do more than just dialing up the top tax bracket in a realistic accounting.”  “I think it seems likely under most proposals taxes would have to go up substantially unless you dramatically cut the health care you’re getting,” she added.  “And I don’t think most proposals envision substantially cutting back on care.  And most envision expanding care which means you’re spending more unless you dramatically cut the price per service.”

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.”

Fact-checkers for The Washington Post note that “[a]ccording to a study from the Urban Institute (and a follow-up paper), Medicare-for-all would still add $32.6 trillion to national health spending over 10 years.”  And 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 [expected].  This may be particularly true of low-income folks who get heavily subsidized coverage on the Obamacare exchanges.”

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.



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