Bernie Sanders on Sunday released his plan to reform the American health insurance system — or, more accurately, to reinvent it from scratch.
It’s a plan to create a single-payer health care system, which entails the government would offer everybody with insurance immediately. Sanders is calling it “Medicare for All, ” because Medicare, which provides government-financed insurance to the elderly, is the closest thing to a single-payer system in the U.S. But that word actually understates the ambition of what he is proposing.
Sanders wouldn’t just replace existing private insurance schemes. He would also replace existing public schemes — including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan and the private schemes available through the Affordable Care Act. He’d even upgrade the coverage that Medicare provides. To pay for this plan, Sanders would replace existing insurance premiums with taxes and put a huge squeeze on the narcotic industry — the kind that would be extremely difficult to push through the political system.
And while Obamacare has produced an historical decline in the number of uninsured Americans, the Sanders plan would reach many, if not most, of the remaining uninsured( roughly 10 percent of the population, according to recent estimates) through automatic enrollment.
“Universal health care is an idea that has been supported in the United States by Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, ” Sanders said. “It is time for our country to join every other major industrialized nation on globe and assure health care to all citizens as a right , not a privilege.”
Sanders introduced his plan just hours before a nationally broadcasted Democratic presidential debate, and after days of backward and forward with Hillary Clinton, front-runner for the nomination. Clinton, who like Sanders is a longtime champ of improving access to health care, has said she prefers to proceed incrementally — chiefly, by bolstering the coverage that Obamacare guarantees and putting more pressure on the narcotic industry to lower prices.
Sanders would go far beyond that. In place of existing arrangements, Sanders would offer coverage that, on paper, looks a lot more comprehensive than any other coverage widely available in America today.
The insurance that Sanders proposes would basically remove copayments and deductibles, except for cosmetic surgery and other elective terms and conditions that a board of medical experts determined to be medically unnecessary.( Person could still pay for those services on their own .)
Coverage for Medicare, the one program Sanders would leave in place, would become more generous, since today it does not offer such extensive benefits.
According to an independent analysed by Gerald Friedman, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Sanders proposal — if legislated — would pay for 98 percentage of the typical person’s medical bills.
“This is a very generous plan, ” Friedman told The Huffington Post. “Doing away with copays and deductibles is a big idea.”
Sanders says that his proposal would actually save the country fund — first, by eliminating all the money that the private insurance industry spends marketing and managing its plans, and producing profits, and then by reducing the money the physicians and hospitals must spend on billing. The plan would also seek deep discounts from the narcotic industry.
Overall, according to Friedman’s analysis, the Sanders proposal would reduce health care spending in the U.S. by$ 6 trillion over the next 10 years.
Because Sanders is eradicating all existing insurance, he’d also wipe out the premiums that people now pay to finance these plans. In their place, he’d impose a new “income-related premium” of 2.2 percentage, a payroll taxation on employers equal to 6.2 percentage of wages, and then a series of new taxation hikes on the wealthy.
These taxes would be in addition to the payroll taxes that people already pay for Medicare, a Sanders spokesman confirmed.
In the end, Friedman found, a family with income of $50,000 would end up saving more than $5,000 a year relative to what they would spend in the current health care system.
Whether other independent analyses come to the same conclusion remains to be determined. But the challenge of single-payer has never been whether, on paper, such a plan could deliver comprehensive benefits to all Americans at a low price. It’s whether such a plan could survive the political process — and how its implementation would play with the public. For example, Sanders envisages huge savings from lower narcotic prices, but make further efforts to extract far more modest savings from the industry have failed repeatedly in the past.
“One can certainly design a single-payer plan on paper that saves fund for the middle class by reducing pays to doctors and hospitals significantly and shifting the financing of health care from premiums to a very progressive taxation structure, ” Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, said on Sunday evening. “Whether such a plan could ever pass and be signed into statute in that form is a very different question.”
That political difficulty, along with the daunt challenge of blowing up the current system and creating something new in its place, is a big reason Clinton has not endorsed anything as ambitious as Sanders — and has been critical of him lately.
“After weeks of denying the legitimacy of the questions Hillary Clinton raised about flaws in the health care legislation he’s introduced 9 times over 20 years, he proposed a new plan two hours before the debate, ” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement Sunday evening. “When you’re operating for President and you’re serious about get results for the American people, details matter — and Senator Sanders is building them up as he goes along.”
Read more: www.huffingtonpost.com