Here’s the math that proves Medicare for All would be great for US taxpayers

Here’s the math that proves Medicare for All would be great for US taxpayers
Gage Skidmore

Universal health care has been a leading issue among the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, from the unapologetically progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders to centrists such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. But there are major differences when it comes to how they hope to achieve it: Sanders favors a Medicare for All system, while Klobuchar favors a major Obamacare expansion and believes a single-payer system would be much too costly for taxpayers. But Matt Bruenig, founder of People’s Policy Project, takes a close look at the costs associated with Medicare-for-all or single-payer systems in an April 29 New York Times piece — and the evidence, he stresses, shows how affordable Medicare-for-all could be for the United States.


Bruenig explains, “One common refrain on the right and the center-left alike: since the rich can’t foot the bill alone, are middle-and working-class supporters of a more socialized health care system really ready to pay as much for it as people do in some of the high-tax nations that have one? The problem is, we already do, and we often pay more.”

Bruenig breaks it down, comparing how much health care costs taxpayers in the United States compared to other countries. The activist notes that “unlike workers in many other countries, the vast majority of American employees have private health insurance premiums deducted from their paychecks”—and if “we reimagine these premiums as taxes,” Bruenig stresses, “we’d realize that Americans pay some of the highest and least progressive labor taxes in the developed world.”

Bruenig illustrates his point by combining data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). And this data, he writes, demonstrates that in the U.S., “lower-income workers, higher-income workers, single workers and married workers with children all contribute around 40% of their pay toward taxes and health premiums.

Bruenig elaborates, “According to this analysis, American families that earn around $43,000, half of the average wage, pay 37% of their wages to taxes and health care premiums. In high-tax Finland, the same type of family pays 23% of their compensation in labor taxes, which includes taxes they pay to support universal health care. In France, it’s 2%. In the United Kingdom and Canada, it is less than 0 percent after government benefits.”

Bruenig concludes his piece by warning if the U.S. doesn’t “move toward a European-style health program, we’ll remain stuck in a system where Americans, regardless of their incomes, pay ever larger amounts out of their paychecks to fund health care. The fact that we don’t call these payments ‘taxes’ doesn’t change that fact; so it shouldn’t blind us to the best solutions.”

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