Sanders Releases Plan for Universal Single-Payer Health Care System

Controversial proposal would essentially replace health care plans Americans currently obtain via their employers or purchased individually.

Presidential nominee Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) released a plan for universal health care on Sunday, which calls for a $1.38 trillion tax hike to facilitate a government-operated single-payer system.

The universal Medicare-for-all plan would expand Medicare and build on the Affordable Care Act, while saving $6 trillion over the next 10 years, according to a Sanders press release. The plan would essentially replace the health care plans Americans currently obtain via their employers or purchased individually.

“In a nation that now spends $3 trillion a year on health care — nearly $10,000 per person – Sanders’ plan would save consumers money by eliminating expensive and wasteful private health insurance,” Sanders’ office said in the press release. “The plan would save taxpayers money by dramatically reducing overall health care costs and bringing down skyrocketing prescription drug prices which are far greater in the United States than in any other country.”

The plan would allow patients to have the ability to choose which doctors to receive care from, in addition to covering physician checkups, emergency room visits, long-term care, vision and dental care. Sanders’ plan would also eliminate copayments and deductibles, while seeking significant discounts from pharmaceutical manufacturers in an effort to reduce drug spending.

The overhaul would take the place of coverage provided by Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, and the plans obtained through the Affordable Care Act.

As a result of eliminating existing insurance plans, Sanders seeks to get rid of the premiums currently paid to finance those plans. Instead, Sanders is calling for an income-related premium of 2.2% and a payroll tax on employers equal to 6.2% of wages. This tax rate would be on top of payroll taxes currently in place for Medicare, according to Sanders’ office.

The payroll tax would also be in addition to the 15.3% FICA tax currently in place.

Sanders also calls for “The Responsible Estate Tax,” which would tax the estates of the wealthiest 0.3% of Americans who inherit more than $3.5 million, while closing loopholes in the estate tax.

The new health care plan calls for estate taxes on some of the wealthiest households in America. The plan would also include tax code changes to make federal income tax rates more progressive, according to Sanders.

The plan also calls for reducing outlays for “taxpayer-supported health care expenditures.”

Under the current system, the average annual cost for the employer, for a worker who makes $50,000 a year, and their family is approximately $12,591. If the universal health care system was put in place, employers could save more than $9,400 a year in health care costs, while an average family that earns $50,000 could save almost $6,000 a year, according to Sanders.

“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,” said Sanders. “It is time for our country to join every other major industrialized nation on earth and guarantee health care to all citizens as a right, not a privilege.”

Critics said Sanders’ comprehensive overhaul has little to no chance of actually being put in place.

“Sanders thinks a single-payer government-run system is the only way to provide universal care at an affordable cost,” the Chicago Tribune wrote in an editorial. “That's not so: Many countries manage to cover everyone by other means. But the more immediate defect with his plan is that it has zero chance of being enacted.”