On Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced a single-payer health care bill that would create a national health insurance program, charting a stem-to-stern reshaping of the country’s health care system. The bill would make it so that Americans would get health coverage simply by showing a new government-issued card and would no longer owe out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles. But Sanders’ description of his measure omitted specifics about how much it would cost and final decisions about how he would pay for it.
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The Democratic Party now is, for all intents and purposes, the party of single-payer health insurance.
Democrats are committing themselves to years more of treacherous health care debate, at a time when there are more pressing issues to confront. They are emulating Donald Trump’s penchant for quick-fix, bumper-sticker solutions that prove to be, in his own words, more “complicated” once in power. And instead of maintaining a candid relationship with its ideological base in order to temper expectations, the party establishment is indulging it, risking bitter disappointment in the future.
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If Bernie Sanders wants to follow Medicare as his model, then the Sanders plan could easily earn another moniker: Benefits for Billionaires. An analysis released by the Congressional Budget Office in August demonstrates how Medicare currently provides significant financial benefits to seniors at all income levels, including the wealthy. The CBO found that at every income level, seniors received more in Medicare benefits than they paid in Medicare taxes. Men in the highest income quintile—the top 20% of income—received a net lifetime benefit from Medicare of nearly $50,000, even after taking into account the Medicare taxes and premiums they paid.
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