As Daniel Patrick Moynihan was fond of saying, “You are entitled to your own opinion. You are not entitled to your own facts.” It is important to keep this in mind as the Democratic presidential primary races tighten to a virtual tie.
A recent Wall Street Journal article claims that candidate Bernie Sanders’ proposals would cost taxpayers an additional $18 trillion over ten years. $15 trillion would be for the cost of expanded and improved Medicare for All.
This piece suffers from the standard gross vs. net confusion. It fails to take into account the savings that Americans would reap from converting private insurance into social insurance.
Anyone who has ever sat through contract negotiations knows that when the boss proposes a $20 raise coupled with a $50 increase in employee healthcare contributions, that you are looking at a $30 wage cut. This is just common sense, kitchen table economics. Families don’t buy groceries with their gross pay. They do so with their net pay.
The same applies to expenses. Suppose you had a cell phone plan that was costing you over $100 per month because it charged you for every call, text and data dump and you replaced it with an all-inclusive plan for $60 per month. What would you say to the service rep from the first company who tried to woo you back by claiming that you had just added an additional $60 per month to the family budget?
Economist Gerald Friedman has calculated that, when the costs are “netted out” by subtracting all that we currently spend on our dysfunctional for profit system from the new costs of the Sanders plan, the savings from a Medicare for All plan would total nearly $5 trillion.
Such a plan would take healthcare off the bargaining table. All employers would pay their fair share through a payroll tax, leveling the playing field between union and non-union employers. Families would save thousands through the elimination of premiums, co-pays, deductibles and other charges.
This is how real, Medicare for All healthcare reform would work. You replace a complex system of private insurance with a single-payer system of social insurance. Everybody pays into the same pot and everybody gets the same standard of care. Instead of a confusing array of co-pays, deductibles, insurance premiums and additional taxes, there is an equitable public funding mechanism based on ability to pay. Everybody in. Nobody out.
This is an irrefutable fact: nearly all economists agree that, even after extending coverage to everyone and eliminating co-pays and deductibles, billions would be saved and 95% of all Americans would pay less under a single-payer Medicare for All system.
It is no surprise that the Wall Street Journal would so grossly misrepresent these numbers. After all, it is the journal of record for the billionaire class. And billionaires are among the very few Americans who would actually pay more than they currently do under a single payer system.
What is surprising is that the Clinton campaign would embrace this calumny in order to try to score cheap political points. Hillary Clinton recently told Politico that, “Bernie Sanders has called for a roughly 9-percent tax on middle class families just to cover his healthcare plan.”
Further muddying the waters, Chelsea Clinton on January 12 tried to tell Iowa voters that Bernie Sanders’ plan to expand healthcare coverage to every American from the cradle to the grave was actually a plan to “strip millions and millions of people of their health insurance.”
The Sanders campaign was quick to respond:
“It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide health care as a right to every man, woman and child. A Medicare-for-All plan will save the average middle class family $5,000 a year. Further, the Clinton campaign is wrong. Our plan will be implemented in every state of the union regardless of who is governor.”
The Labor Campaign for Single Payer is a non-partisan advocacy organization. Our mission is to promote labor support for single payer Medicare-for-All healthcare reform that would make healthcare a human right for everyone in America. Our affiliates include 10 national unions, 10 state labor federations and dozens of regional and local labor organizations.
“We recognize that our affiliates hold a diversity of views with regard to the 2016 presidential primaries,” stated South Carolina AFL-CIO President Emeritus Donna Dewitt. “However, we have a duty to speak up when any candidate attempts to distort the facts regarding the advantages of a single-payer Medicare for All system, which follows social insurance principles embraced by the entire labor movement, over our current for-profit private insurance system which treats healthcare as a business rather than a fundamental human right.”
Our ally, Healthcare NOW!, has launched a petition campaign asking that Hillary Clinton stop the fear mongering and join with he 81% of all Democrats who support single-payer, Medicare for All. Please add your voice.