“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do at all, or cannot so well do, for themselves — in their separate, and individual capacities.”
— Abraham Lincoln
Over the course of her 2020 presidential campaign, when asked if she would raise the income taxes for working-class families to help pay for her single-payer health care plan, referred to as Medicare for All, Elizabeth Warren tap-danced around it by explaining how “the wealthiest were going to pay more and hard working-class families will see their costs go down.” Her redirected narrative was an explanation of the cost savings these families would experience without conceding that it would require them to see higher payroll taxes to accomplish this.
She again reiterated this position in the fourth Democratic debate on on Oct. 15. Bernie Sanders however, who also supports a Medicare-for-All plan and tends to avoid responding directly to questions of raising taxes for his health plan, did concede that raising taxes will be necessary to pay for such a plan, explaining that the increases for working-class Americans will be offset with the savings they’ll experience when their costs from their for-profit health insurance plans are eliminated.
When I see Sen. Warren doing this, I become as uncomfortable as I think as some Trump supporters who hear him say the Syrian Kurds are better off after he abandoned them. While the former is a form of obfuscation, the latter is a moral betrayal, but both are sources of frustration to voters that continue to generate distrust with elected officials.
Everyone knows raising income taxes is what it requires to achieve Medicare for All. Avoiding the obvious only gives your enemies an opening to dramatically twist the facts to fit some apocalyptic scenario that will play to the worst fears of their constituencies.
Democrats who support a single-payer health care bill need to quit whitewashing this issue and be honest with the American people. Though polls on this issue vary over time, they continue to show that a strong majority, between 60% and 70%, support Medicare for All.
A December 2017 Gallup poll showed that 71% of those polled say our current for-profit health care system is “in a state of crisis” or “has major problems” and even reflected that “Republicans have become more critical in the past decade.”
In her circumlocution of the question, Warren did spell out in detail how her plan would lower costs for middle-income working families even as it raises their taxes. It is those details that need to follow the affirmation that “yes, your payroll taxes will increase, but …” so Americans can understand that though there may be no free rides, there is a plan here to fix our broken health care system while keeping more of their earned income.
Will it be a perfect system? Of course not. But then neither is the current for-profit system where the median amount spent annually on both premiums and out-of-pocket costs for households with employer-provided insurance ranges from $1,500 (Hawaii) to $5,540 (South Dakota). Health insurance providers often deny coverage whenever and wherever they can, give consumers fewer choices based on where they live and add to the long-term financial cost with burdensome record keeping imposed upon physicians and hospitals.
America ran dead last in a Commonwealth Fund, 11-country comparison on their health care systems. Consumers are essentially left to defend themselves to battle outrageous rising costs left to them after doctors, hospitals and health insurance providers have negotiated how best to preserve their profits.
Health Care coverage in America, like public schools, good roads and bridges and parks, should be considered a right, not a privilege. It’s an essential that only governments can provide at costs that eliminate price gouging and ensures that economic productivity isn’t stifled by a labor force burdened with out-of-control medical expenses.