Sen. Bernie Sanders ‘Medicare for All’ is admirable but unrealistic


File Photo

Presidential candidate at the time Bernie Sanders delivers a speech during the “A Future to Believe In” campaign rally on April 26, 2016 at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington, W.Va. The assembly attracted more than 6,000 supporters.

Alex O'Donnell, For The Parthenon

Sen. Bernie Sanders released the Medicare for All Act today with a promise to insure every American, no matter their health condition or their socioeconomic status. That is an admirable goal. The Medicare for All Act, however, is not an admirable bill.

So what does the Medicare for All Act do? As one would probably expect from Sen. Sanders, this is a bill that creates a new insurance system where a single payer – the government – funds healthcare in the country. On a broad level, this is similar to Canada, Great Britain and other developed countries, who also have some level of government-run healthcare services for their citizens.

Where it falls apart is in the details (and the lack of them). First, Section 107 of the bill prohibits private insurance companies from selling health insurance after a transition period. Effectively, this pushes every American into a new and unknown bureaucracy. I am not saying that the current healthcare oligopoly is better, but can you imagine the attack ads and fearmongering that would arise from a complete government takeover of the healthcare industry.

Second, who is going to pay for this single player plan? Healthcare expenditures in the United States average around $2.4 trillion per year per the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. If the government assumes this entire cost, then taxes must rise to compensate for the increased expenses. How much? For whom? We do not know because the bill does not address that.

I could go on, but the theme is clear: the Medicare for All Act is an unrealistic solution for a very real problem. What makes it worse is that because of the main sponsor, this bill will probably become a litmus test for Democratic politicians moving forward. Either you support it or face being called a sellout, closet Koch supporter, neoliberal – whatever the insult is nowadays.

That is a shame. As shown with the Affordable Care Act, progressives have very little political capital to make lasting and effective changes for our country. We should not waste it on the Medicare for All Act.

Alex O’Donnell can be contacted at [email protected]