Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is pushing a single-payer health care bill that would give Americans health insurance through Medicare.
“Today, we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all its people,” Sanders said in a statement.
“At a time when millions of Americans do not have access to affordable health care, the Republicans, funded by the Koch brothers, are trying to take away health care from up to 32 million more,” he added. “We have a better idea: guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare for All, single-payer health care program.”
Sanders proposed financial options for Medicare for All that he said would save families and businesses when it comes to expenses. A couple of the options are for employers to pay a 7.5 percent income-based premium and for households to pay a 4 percent income-based premium.
Sanders, who introduced the bill Sept. 13, also proposed a marginal income tax rate of 40 percent for $250,000 to $500,000; 45 percent for $500,000 to $2 million; 50 percent for $2 million to $10 million; and 52 percent for incomes over $10 million.
Robert Moffit, a senior fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies, said Sanders is proposing a monopoly over the health finance and delivery systems, and this means “there will no longer be any private health insurance.” He said people will not be able to keep their current health insurance plans.
“In order to accomplish this objective, Congress is going to have to impose very heavy taxes,” Moffit said.
Moffit said he doesn’t think a single-payer system will ever be successful unless it either allocates a budget for health care or imposes a price control system. He said the problem is that if demand exceeds the budget, choices will have to be made, such as deciding the people who will receive health care and how they will get it.
Because Sanders’ bill would create a government program, Moffit said, it will also go through congressional deal-makings and interventions.
“You’re talking about a massive politicization of the system where almost every health care decision becomes a political decision,” Moffit said.
The Medicare for All Act of 2017 has been controversial among Republican members of Congress. Phil Novack, press secretary of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Cruz was “strongly opposed to a single-payer system that would put government in control of our health care.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said Americans will receive “inferior health care” if it is in the hands of the government.
“What we find is that when we hand other things over to the federal government, it very often makes a mess of them,” Lee said.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) September 13, 2017
There were also 15 Democratic senators who introduced the legislation with Sanders, including Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
“If we’re dealing with it in the emergency room, it’s too little, too late and it’s too expensive,” Harris said in a press release. “Let’s give the taxpayers of the United States a better return on their investment, which means Medicare for All.”
Moffit said the Democratic Party he grew up with had moderates and even conservatives, but this bill is a “really sharp turn to the left” in public policy.