1.10.20 / 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:

As presidential candidates prepare to debate again next Tuesday, a new poll from Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center finds that “[i]mproving the current health-care system received the most support among voters, far more than repealing Obamacare or adopting ‘Medicare-for-All,” Bloomberg reports

  • This tracks closely with previous polling.  In fact, the second edition of Voter Vitals – a tracking poll conducted nationwide and in 2020 battleground states by Locust Street Group for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future – finds that “as voters learn more about new government-run health care proposals, support for them is declining with a majority of voters preferring to build on and improve what we have today rather than start over with Medicare for All or the public option.”

Meanwhile, the unaffordable costs and higher taxes associated with new government-controlled health insurance systems – such as Medicare for All, Medicare buy-in and the public option – continue to take center stage. 

  • For example, The Washington Post reports that “[Senator Bernie] Sanders has declined to specify how much it would cost to implement his Medicare-for-all plan.  ‘I don’t give a number and I’ll tell you why: It’s such a huge number and it’s so complicated that if I gave a number you and 50 other people would go through it and say, “Oh…”’ he said, his voice trailing off.”  In fact, Medicare for All “would cost more than $50 trillion over 10 years,” Yahoo! Finance reports.  And a 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.  The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) finds that “fully offsetting the cost would require higher taxes on the middle class,” and would “require the equivalent of tripling payroll taxes or more than doubling all other taxes.”  Senator Sanders previously acknowledged that Americans making more than $29,000 per year would “pay more in taxes” for Medicare for All.

Adding to this point, Robert Shapiro, a Senior Fellow at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs under President Clinton, writes in Washington Monthly“even large tax increases on everyone (i.e. 50 percent hikes on income and payroll taxes) simply won’t be enough to fund what Sanders has promised.”

Dramatic increases in everyone’s taxes aren’t enough.  Based on CBO revenue projections, adjusted for the 2022 to 2031 timeframe used by the Urban Institute and the Mercatus Center, the Treasury will collect an average of $1,668 billion per-year in payroll taxes, $2,597 billion per-year in personal income taxes, and $395 billion per-year in corporate taxes over that period.  So, if Congress raised everybody’s income and payroll taxes by 50 percent and doubled the federal corporate tax, it would raise $2,378 billion per-year over the next decade.  That would only cover about 60 percent or 74 percent of MFA’s costs … Paying for it would crush most taxpayers and businesses, and overwhelm the U.S. tax system.  Sad to say, it’s a policy equivalent of the Venus Flytrap, drawing people in and then eating them alive financially.

And, as some try to paint other new government-controlled health insurance systems – like Medicare buy-in and the public option – as so-called “moderate” alternatives to Medicare for All, Eric Levitz at New York Magazine notes that in reality these new one-size-fits-all systems “would be vastly more expensive,” and would need “tax increases nearly as large as those put forward by Sanders and Warren.”  And “[t]he public option would cause premiums for private insurance to skyrocket,” economist Dr. Scott Atlas of Stanford University writes in The Wall Street Journal.  “A single-payer option is not a moderate, compromise proposal.Its inevitable consequence is the death of affordable private insurance … Massive taxation would be needed to expand Medicare, whether optionally or not,” Atlas continues.

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