Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has drawn criticism for his proposals from both his Democratic rival for the nomination, Hillary Clinton, as well as from his Republican opponents who argue his plan will lead to a big increase in taxes for the average American. A large part of this criticism comes from Sanders' call for a single-payer healthcare system in the U.S. to replace private insurance.
However, a new study published on Jan. 21 in the American Journal For Public Health estimates that 64.3 percent of all U.S. health spending, or $1.877 trillion, had been paid by the federal, state and local governments in 2013, MedScape reports. This means the U.S. government would not need to spend much more -- most likely less than the tax increases which Sanders has proposed -- to hypothetically finance a single-payer system.
As healthcare spending keeps rising in the United States, two doctors working from the City University of New York have estimated the government's share of health expenditures increasing to 67.1 percent in 2024 -- only four percentage points less than the 71 percent in health care spending which Canada uses to finance its single-payer system.
Dr. Woolhandler, one of the article's writers, wrote the following about the U.S. healthcare system and why single-payer could be an improvement:
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"We pay the world's highest health care taxes. But patients are still saddled with unaffordable premiums and deductibles. Meanwhile, billions are squandered on paperwork, and insurers and drug companies pocket huge profits at taxpayer expense."
The main problem with Sanders' plan is not knowing how replacing the United States' system of mostly private insurance would pan out. One argument, made by both Sen. Sanders as well as the article, is that higher taxes for single-payer healthcare would be offset by lower administrative costs and the elimination of private insurance premiums, MedScape reports.
Also, while the article argues that various government entities around the United States are already paying for two-thirds of all healthcare spending in the country, it may still mean much higher taxes as the government influences the cost of insurance in indirect ways, as MedScape notes.
According to Mark V. Pauly, a professor of healthcare management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania:
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"... the estimate of how much of healthcare is taxpayer funded is only a lower boundary estimate of how much control the government really exerts."
On Sanders' own website: "Health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income. The only long-term solution to America's health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program."