October 23, 2019 | Updates

Presidential Candidates Criticize Unaffordable Costs Of Medicare For All

WASHINGTON – As some proponents of Medicare for All continue to obfuscate when it comes to how their proposal’s massive price tag would be passed on to middle class Americans, some presidential candidates are rightly pointing out the unaffordable tax hikes working families would experience under a one-size-fits-all system.  Appearing on CNN earlier this week, presidential candidates Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN) all criticized and questioned the unaffordable costs associated with the new government system.

  • Klobuchar“I would like to see how [Senator Warren’s] going to pay for it.  I’m surprised that we haven’t seen it yet because, you know, I think if she had a good answer, we would have seen it by now.”
  • Buttigieg: “Right now, whether you copy-paste the Bernie Sanders math or do it some other way, there is a hole amounting to trillions of dollars in how this is supposed to work.”
  • Bennet: “When [Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)] studies [Medicare for all] she’s going to find it’s impossible to fund what she’s talking about without taxing the middle class.  And even lower.  Bernie brings the taxes down to $29,000.  That only pays for half of it by the way, that’s $16 trillion.  This is a little bit of a joke I have to say.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s editorial board writes that “candidates owe voters an honest accounting” of the costs associated with such proposals and that the Democrats “criticizing Elizabeth Warren for refusing to admit, in plain words, that her Medicare for All plan will require taxes to increase” are “right to complain.”

And as supporters of Medicare for All also continued to incorrectly claim 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.

CRFB confirms this point, noting that the options laid out to finance the new government-controlled health insurance system “would fall well short of raising the $30 trillion necessary to fully offset the plan, and are unlikely to cover much more than half of the cost of Medicare for All.  Though we have not formally estimated these new proposals, it is clear that they would indeed leave a ‘multi-trillion dollar hole.’”

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.  Additionally, “71% of households with private insurance would wind up paying more than they would under the current system,” Kenneth Thorpe, chairman of the health policy and management department at Emory University, told The Wall Street Journal.

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.”

And as some try to paint the public option as a ‘moderate’ alternative to Medicare for All, The New York Times reports that the public option “could also lead to a 10 percent increase in premiums for the remaining pool of insured people.”  The Times adds:

More younger people with expensive medical conditions have enrolled than insurers expected, and insurers would have to increase premiums to cover their costs, Mr. Haltmeyer said.  Tricia Neuman, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies insurance markets, said a government buy-in that attracted older Americans could indeed raise premiums for those who remained in the A.C.A. markets, especially if those consumers had high medical costs … Dr. David Blumenthal, the president of the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that funds health care research, said a government plan that attracted people with expensive conditions could prove costly.  “You might, as a taxpayer, become concerned that they would be more like high-risk pools,” he said.

As Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford University explains in The Wall Street Journal, such a system would raise costs for families and “mainly erode, or ‘crowd out,’ private insurance, rather than provide coverage to the uninsured.”  He writes:

The public option would cause premiums for private insurance to skyrocket because of underpayment by government insurance compared with costs for services … A single-payer option is not a moderate, compromise proposal.  Its inevitable consequence is the death of affordable private insurance.  Even Democratic presidential candidates calling for “a public option” openly admitted in the recent debate that it would inevitably lead to a single-payer-dominated system … Massive taxation would be needed to expand Medicare, whether optionally or not.



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