Tommy Christopher at Mediaite noticed this earlier today and it’s pretty interesting. Bernie Sanders hosted a Medicare for All town hall Monday. During the Q&A portion of the event, he was asked about how he would pay for his proposal. When Sanders said taxes would go need to go up (while premiums went away) he got a follow-up question.
“You’re telling us you’ve got to raise taxes to do this. Why can’t we adjust the current budget, for defense, and pay for us now as opposed to making us, you know, this futuristic thing?” a woman asked. She added, “I think it’s a great idea, we just have to turn it around because raising taxes is not probably going to fly for everyone here in New Hampshire.”
“This is the issue. This is why some people don’t talk about it,” Sanders replied. He didn’t identify who the “some people” were but he does have a rival candidate who has repeatedly refused to admit that taxes would need to go up: Elizabeth Warren.
After agreeing that the defense budget was too high, Sanders continued, “I don’t want to lie to you. If I told you, magically, that you’re going to have great health care and it’s not going to cost you a penny would you believe me? So we got to be honest.”
It sort of sounds like Sanders is calling Warren a liar. Warren appeared on Stephen Colbert’s show two weeks ago and refused to admit that her plan would raise middle-class taxes. She did the same thing in an interview with NBC News last week.
Sanders even seemed to express some sympathy for Warren’s position. “Now I understand what the media will do. Every time I go on the media ‘How much are you going to raise taxes?’ not ‘How much are you going to reduce—what does it mean to reduce premiums, co-payments, and out-of-pocket expenses,'” he said.
“So we have to be mature enough to say, okay, if I’m stopping you, hypothetically, from paying $20,000 a year in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, you’re paying $10,000 more in taxes. Last I heard, you’re in pretty good shape,” he continued.
Sanders went on to emphasize again that he’s telling the truth: “I can’t lie. I can tell you this is what goes on in Canada. People pay for it but they pay less than what we pay here.”
Good for Sanders for admitting the obvious about taxes, I guess, but Tommy Christopher points out that his $20,000 in premiums example isn’t very realistic:
Sanders is absolutely correct that his plan would be far more comprehensive than most any other plan, but on average, most Americans don’t pay anywhere near what Sanders says in premiums and out-of-pocket costs. People with employer-sponsored health insurance pay an average of $1400 a year in premiums and $800 a year in out-of-pocket costs, and individual plans average a little over $5000 a year in premiums without subsidies — which families earning less than 100,000 a year qualify for.
Sanders has actually used the figure $28,000 before as the cost of health care for a family of four, but that figure includes the portion of the payment (nearly 60%) paid by an employer. So the actual out-of-pocket would be closer to $12,000 as the Post’s fact-checker pointed out. So if taxes do go up $10,000 you’re not going to feel like you’re saving much at all. And if, like every other big entitlement program in history, taxes go up more than anticipated you might be paying more.
Finally, if Sanders wanted to be really honest, he could have told the woman who suggested taking money out of the defense budget that our current defense budget is about $700 billion a year while Medicare for All would probably cost about $33 trillion over 10 years. That works out to more than four times the entire defense budget per year. So you could zero out defense spending and it would only cover a small fraction of the cost of his plan.