Appearing at a Fox News town hall in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Monday, >>Vermont senator and socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders turned >>in a fiery and combative performance. One moment in particular seems to be >>generating a lot of excitement.
After an audience member asked about his “Medicare for all” health plan, >>which would require eliminating private health insurance, Fox host Bret >>Baier decided to poll the audience to ask if they would prefer Bernie’s >>plan to their existing health insurance. Here’s what happened:
Bret Baier just polled the Bernie Town Hall audience who would
be willing to switch to #MedicareForAll. It backfired spectacularly. >> pic.twitter.com/dQJ9gfQ137
— jordan (@JordanUhl) April 15, 2019
This is a bit unfair to Baier, since it assumes he asked the question in bad >>faith, rather than knowingly asking the politically diverse crowd Fox >>assembled for the event their opinion on the matter. Further, it doesn’t >>really tell us much that a room half full of Democratic voters and Bernie >>supporters prefer some imaginary, aspirational future where the government >>pays for health care and there are minimal problems, as opposed to the >>warts-and-all reality of what we have now. (Certainly, it’s appealing enough >>that four other Democratic presidential candidates have chosen to co-sponsor >>his recently introduced “Medicare for all” legislation in the Senate.)
That’s especially true since Sanders hasn’t done a good job of explaining >>“Medicare for all,” to put it mildly. Asked about the specifics of his plan, >>Sanders employed the tried and true three-step explanation for how it works. >>
Step one, point out that the United States is the only “very highly >>developed” country without socialized health care and note that U.S. per >>capita health spending is much higher than in these other countries. Make >>sure you do this without noting the problems inherent in the way these other >>countries ration lifesaving treatments (and even prevent you from leaving >>the country to seek potentially lifesaving treatment, presumably just to >>make some stupid nationalistic point about how great it is that everyone is >>trapped in the same system together). Also, under no circumstances note that >>these other countries often have vastly inferior medical technology and >>infrastructure–the average wait time for an MRI in Canada can be longer than >>five months, which is unthinkable here.
Step two, elide over all the details of how to implement a socialized system >>that addresses the size and diversity of American health care, which is >>radically different than the challenges faced by much smaller and more >>homogeneous European countries with supposedly superior care. Most >>importantly, also elide over the fact that the socialized health care system >>we have that’s supposedly so appealing, Medicare, is a money black hole with >>trillions in unfunded liabilities that is the single largest driver of our >>enormous debt that threatens to precipitate a republic-destroying financial >>crisis.
Step three, after having said nothing particularly illuminating or specific, >>bask in the glory of being a radical reformer that dares to imagine a future >>where greedy insurance companies are put out of business by a selfless and >>incorruptible federal government.
That was roughly the template Sanders followed during his Fox town hall, and >>from the video above you can see he scored debate points on health care. (Or >>at least, Vox, HuffPo and much of the left-of-center Twitterati seem to >>think so.)
But if you were listening, Sanders made some telling admissions. “You’re >>gonna pay more in taxes but your health care will be cheaper,” he said. For >>a long time now, Sanders has owed us an actually detailed explanation for >>how our health care is going to get cheaper under “Medicare for all,” and >>it hasn’t been forthcoming.
The Associated Press summed up a study done by the Mercatus Center last year >>this way, “Sen. Bernie Sanders’s ‘Medicare for all’ plan would boost >>government health spending by $32.6 trillion over 10 years, requiring >>historic tax hikes.” Of course, Bernie Bros would protest that the Mercatus >>Center is a libertarian think tank not predisposed to give Sanders’s plan a >>fair shake. But what about The New York Times?
When Sanders was running for president in 2016, New York Times domestic >>correspondent Margot Sanger-Katz kicked the tires on Sanders’s “Medicare for >>All” plan he proposed then and concluded, “Bernie Sanders’s Health Plan Is >>More of a Tax Plan“:
[T]he plan … was full of details about the taxes that would be
collected to finance it. The plan would charge a special income
tax, called a premium, increase payroll taxes and raise a variety
of taxes on high-income Americans, including income and capital
gains taxes. Those are big, specific changes, worthy of detailed
coverage. Missing, however, were more than a few sentences about
how the proposal would change the health care system in the United
Further, “Medicare for all” doesn’t have much to do with Medicare as we know >>it:
But the program he describes isn’t an extension of the existing
Medicare program, which provides health insurance for older people
and the disabled. Medicare includes premiums, co-payments and
deductibles, and excludes coverage for long-term care or dentistry. >> A lot of important details have been left out. Here are some things >> it doesn’t say: What would the new system pay doctors and hospitals >> for their services? How would it decide which medical treatments it >> should and shouldn’t cover? What strategies would it use to contain >> health care costs and keep the system affordable? Who would make the >> decisions, big and small, about how the program would work?
Finally, Sanders’s own campaign economist couldn’t explain to Sanger-Katz >>how his plan was supposed to work:
I spoke with Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who provided the campaign
with estimates of the program’s cost. … Mr. Friedman calculates,
for example, that the cost of physician services in a single-payer
system could be lowered by 10.7 percent — his estimate of how much
doctors currently spend on billing and administration staff that
they would no longer need. I asked him how the payer would get to
that number — would the government pay lower prices for treatments, >> or change which treatments it paid for, or switch doctors to a
system in which they earn government salaries?
He couldn’t say with certainty. ‘The pleasure of being an academic
is I can just spell things out and leave the details to others,’ he >> said. ‘The details very quickly get very messy.’
Well, that’s quite an admission. But in the three years since Sanger-Katz >>tried to understand how Sanders’s plan worked, it seems everyone in >>Sanders’s orbit, himself included, has been leaving the details to others. >>After being embarrassed in the pages of The New York Times in 2016, >>apparently they learned nothing.
Astonishingly, when the AP reported on the Mercatus study last year, Sanders >>wasn’t even able to begin to refute the report’s conclusion that his plan >>was financially unsustainable. Why? “Sanders’ office has not done a cost >>analysis, a spokesman said.”
His recently proposed “Medicare for all” legislation doesn’t much improve on >>prior attempts to flesh out how health care will be administered in a cost- >>effective manner, even as it’s full of tax hike proposals such as 70 percent >>marginal tax rates on income over $10 million, 77 percent estate taxes on >>the rich, and taxes on big banks. Even the liberal outlet Vox once again >>admits the “plan has lots of details about what single-payer would cover. >>It has less information on how to pay for it.” Sanders can try to soak the >>rich all he wants, but it doesn’t mean much when credible estimates suggest >>“doubling all currently projected federal individual and corporate income >>tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of >>the plan.”
In the end, Sanders doesn’t have a health care plan, so much as a branding >>strategy for one. Medicare, despite its fiscal unsustainability, is very >>popular. So calling government-run health care “Medicare for all” is a >>stroke of genius, insofar as it makes the American public more receptive to >>socialist ideas. That’s why other Democratic candidates are happy to >>associate themselves with “Medicare for all” as a slogan, but appear to be >>distancing themselves from the actual policy.
Kamala Harris may be co-sponsoring Sanders’s legislation, but ultimately she >>“backs many incremental, go-slow plans that aren’t as radical and add up to >>something more like ‘Medicare for more’ or a strengthened version of >>Obamacare,” notes Politico. Similarly, another candidate and Senate co- >>sponsor, Elizabeth Warren, has taken a similarly less radical approach, >>saying she’s “open to different paths” to getting “Medicare for all.” In >>reality, her plan is more like the “ACA 2.0.”
In a lot of polls, Sanders is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. >>He cannot be allowed to offer a radical plan he freely admits will cause 180 >>million Americans to lose their existing health care coverage and not bother >>explaining how it works.
Yet he’s gotten away with it for three years. The press, as well as his >>competitors in the Democratic primary, need to grow a spine and demand some >>real answers here.
â€śWe're going to have insurance for everybody, There was a
philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it, you don't
get it. That's not going to happen with us. [People covered under
the law] can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much
simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.â€ť
-- Donald J. Trump, January 15, 2016
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