Every year around this time, I take a look at my pay stubs and look at the accrued total I’ve paid in health insurance premiums. This year, it will be almost exactly $5,000, which doesn’t include the additional copayments as well as the hundreds spent on dental insurance. These thousands of dollars would be there regardless of how much I made over the past year.
The taxes I pay, by contrast, depend very much on my salary, and in particular the “Medicare” portion will only come to about $650. It is striking that my Medicare tax would have to be multiplied by a factor of eight before it surpassed even my base health care premiums. In the event I was hospitalized or had significantly more need of medical attention, the cost I pay under the current system would be even higher due to deductibles that must be paid out-of-pocket.
That is the insanely simple logic behind Medicare for All legislation backed by both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The vast, vast majority of salary and wage earners would be far better off under such a system — which eliminates premiums, copayments, and deductibles.
Even in the event that taxes go up to pay for such a system, the burden would fall proportionally with higher earners through the tax system — lower- and middle-income workers will come out ahead.
Both candidates supporting Medicare for All have suffered in the media for their support — with debate moderators going out of their way to ask misleading questions about tax increases under Medicare For All while ignoring the simple argument laid out above. In particular, Warren’s recent dip in support has been attributed by the media to her backing of Sanders’ Medicare for All plan.
A recent Politico article, “The Army built to fight Medicare for All,” along with reporting from other outlets, recently shined a spotlight on why there is such backlash against the plan, and it isn’t the voters.
The article details the efforts by normally warring factions of the health care lobby — hospitals, insurers, drug companies, even doctors — who compete over health care dollars, uniting to form one conglomerate to sink not only Medicare for All, but anything that would significantly expand the government’s role in health care.
They call themselves the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future.
Previous iterations of the group, including some continued members, contributed to the public opinion shift against the Clinton Administration’s 1993 health care reform push, airing ads featuring a middle-aged couple agonizing over rising costs and fewer options under the Clinton plan. The ads were then amplified by media coverage that Politico reported helped tank the plan.
Sanders himself in May warned of this monied alliance in a Buzzfeed opinion piece.
“This group’s members aren’t patients or consumers or people impacted by our current health care system — they are insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbying group,” Sanders wrote. “These groups spent $143 million on lobbying in 2018 to try to preserve a system that is a disaster for millions of Americans, but that is making big money for CEOs.”
Medicare for All is supported by a clear majority of Americans — 70 percent of the whole country, including Republicans, according to a 2018 poll. Following efforts of Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, that support is slipping.
For the past few years, I have advocated for Massachusetts to step up and attempt a Medicare for All system in this state. Just as Massachusetts created the system that led to Obamacare, we can be the pioneers that lead to national Medicare for All legislation. While the deadline has passed to get a ballot question ready for 2020 on such a measure, the Legislature still has it within its authority to back a proposal. In 2018, a local nonbinding ballot question on Medicare for All passed in every single city and town where it was presented — 36 in all. More legislators on Beacon Hill than ever now back Medicare for All legislation.
Let’s not let paid lobbyists poison a sound health care solution that, as Sanders and Warren both often point out, is enjoyed by the vast majority of other developed nations in the world.
Reach Dave Eisenstadter at email@example.com.