October 18, 2019 | Updates

THE WEEKLY SCAN: Key Stories In The Debate On America’s Health Care Future

Good Friday afternoon, and welcome to the Weekly Scan.  Here are some of the key stories you may have missed in the debate on America’s health care future:

This week’s presidential debate reminded Americans yet again of the unaffordable costs and substantial risks associated with new government-controlled health insurance systems like Medicare for All, the public option and Medicare buy-in.

Medicare for All proponents once again obfuscated about the tax increases middle class families would be forced to pay under a one-size-fits-all government-controlled health insurance system. “[Senator Elizabeth] Warren 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,” The Washington Post reports.  At the same time, the bill’s author and fellow presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reiterated “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,”Vice News reports.

  • 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.”

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.Ronald Brownstein of The Atlantic notes that that “eye-popping” cost is “more than the federal government will spend over the coming decade on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined.”

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 recently.  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.”

This may be one reason, as The Hill reports, that Medicare for All “is losing support in the polls.”  They continue:

[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.

So, it should come as no surprise then that Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a progressive senator from the key swing state of Ohio, joined a growing list of Democrats sounding alarms about Medicare for All, calling it a “terrible mistake.”  Instead, Brown “urged candidates to focus on improving the Affordable Care Act [ACA], while protecting pre-existing conditions.”

Meanwhile, Peter Suderman, a columnist for The New York Timesexplains why Vermont’s failure to implement a Medicare for All style system “demonstrates why any similar project undertaken at a national scale is unlikely to succeed as well.” 



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