Despite spending twice as much on healthcare than most wealthy countries, Americans have a lower life expectancy than their counterparts in the West. Bernie Sanders is keen to change that.
The US Democratic presidential candidate unveiled his universal healthcare plan a couple of hours before the last Democratic debate last night (Jan. 17). Sanders praised Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act but he noted there are still 29 million Americans without health insurance. He calls for a system “that works not just for millionaires and billionaires, but for all of us.” So what is his alternative?
- Sanders wants to create a federally administered single-payer healthcare program—already used in a number of countries such as Canada—where the government insures everyone for their healthcare needs and pays the bills through taxes. The US already has a single-payer system, called Medicare, which has been in place since 1966 and takes care of Americans over 65.
- Universal healthcare would be funded through taxes—and would no longer be optional. US citizens would pay a 2.2% income-based premium towards their healthcare, while employers would pay an additional 6.2% of what it pays employees towards the plan.
- Further progressive and wealth taxes—such as paying between 37% on income above $250,000 and 52% on income above $10 million, various capital-gains taxes, ended tax exemptions, and inheritance taxes—would fund the scheme, which costs $1.38 trillion per year.
- Last year, the “average working family” paid $4,955 in premiums and $1,318 in deductibles to private health-insurance companies, the Sanders campaign said. Under his plan, a family of four earning $50,000 would pay $466 per year into the single-payer system.
- Sanders claims the plan will result in an overall savings of $6 trillion over the next 10 years, when compared to the current system.
Currently, the US spends about $8,713 per person on healthcare, more than twice the OECD average of $3,453. A number of countries, including Norway, Greece, and Japan, spend less than the US on healthcare but have a life expectancy that is just as long or longer:
Hillary Clinton, who is currently leading the Democratic race nationwide, says the party should focus on improving Obamacare and warned that any plan to move away from the act risks sparking a “contentious debate” within the Democrats. Sanders dismisses this criticism, insisting that his plan will improve the current system and that the government can “finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively.”
“Universal healthcare is an idea that has been supported in the United States by Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman,” Sanders wrote. “It is time for our country to join every other major industrialized nation on earth and guarantee healthcare to all citizens as a right, not a privilege.”
It is worth bearing in mind that Obama has, in the past, praised such a plan (paywall) but noted how contentious such a system would be to pass into law.