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Evaluating the Bernie Sanders Plan to Socialize Medicine

Updated on April 9, 2016

Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is currently promoting a plan that would dramatically increase taxes in order to socialize medicine. The reasons for moving to socialized medicine are fairly straightforward, although it is a multi-faceted issue.

Socialized Medicine would save people money

Overall, the health insurance industry runs on relatively slim profit margins, usually in the 2 to 3 percent range (granted, in this case that 2 to 3 percent equals billions of dollars, but I digress). Still, that 2 to 3 percent profit comes after paying all of the copays for their customers, as well as covering the additional expenses of their own personnel and infrastructure. All of those things are paid for through insurance premiums, and, with the obvious exception of the copays, they are in no way directly related to anyone’s personal health. Additionally, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies have to provide additional personnel just to deal with those companies, all of which is paid for by passing the expense on to the consumer. By moving to socialized medicine, all of those unnecessary expenses would be eliminated, significantly reducing the overall price of health care for everyone. As a result, the amount the individual would save in health insurance premiums would be far greater than the tax increases used to pay for the expansion of Medicare.

This prisoner of war didn't have to pay for his health care.
This prisoner of war didn't have to pay for his health care.

Everyone should have health care

No one should have ever been allowed to profit from your personal health; it creates an obvious incentive for those companies to wish you some supposedly palatable level of illness, and health care is most definitely something that every person on this planet has a right to. The Geneva Conventions require that health care be provided to people that were literally just trying to kill you, but somehow American citizens can’t assume they will receive it because Capitalism.

However,

The health insurance industry is a very large employer

The health insurance industry employs nearly 500,000 people in this country, and that doesn’t include the additional staff hired by hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies to interact with them. For the most part, those aren’t just any jobs; they’re exactly the type of fair paying middle class jobs that are gradually being eliminated from almost every other industry. Eliminating them would not only have an immediate and noticeable increase to unemployment, but it would further widen the now canyon sized gap between this country’s rich and poor.

Also,


Image courtesy Vox/Javier Zarracina
Image courtesy Vox/Javier Zarracina

Sanders’ plan calls for increased taxes on people that can’t afford it

Bernie Sander’s plan includes increasing taxes on everyone, which I’m sure makes it more palatable to Republicans, but in reality would end up hurting those people that, on the surface, it seems designed to help the most. Paying for a Medicare expansion in part by increasing taxes on people so poor they can barely pay their own rent and only have health care coverage because of Medicaid seems like missing the point of what is essentially a humanitarian cause. It’s only 2 percent, but 2 percent is a lot when your disposable income is basically nonexistent to begin with.

For the most part, this is a wonderful idea that would save people money and could eliminate any corporate disincentive for people to be healthy. In some ways it’s even a courageous thing to propose publicly. However, if, for whatever reason, this concerns you, feel secure in the knowledge that it will never, ever happen. Even if Bernie Sanders were to become president (he won’t- half the country’s going to think he’s a socialist and/or the absent minded professor), health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies have far too much power in Washington through lobbyists and benefits provided to congressmen for this to ever get through Congress. Still, any movement in this direction that might be achieved would be positive, and it is something that an informed electorate should at least consider.

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