chart showing the tens of trillions in debt Bernie Sanders' single payer plan would add to the national debt

12 Sep 2017

Reality Checked News: Sanders’ Single Payer will add Over a TRILLION to the National Debt Every Year

Left wing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is set to release legislation based on his ‘single payer’, socialized healthcare plan soon, which means it’s time to revisit the false claims he made about it during the his presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, and especially the huge gap between the reality of how much it would cost, and how much Sanders falsely claimed it would cost.

 

 

In line with Sanders’ pattern – falling  inline with that of corrupt politicians from time immemorial – of giving more than he takes and passing the bill to future generations to pay off, the Sanders campaign released cost estimates of around $13.8 trillion over the first ten years. The problem with that is it’s completely disconnected from reality – independent estimates from economic think tanks put it around half of the actual cost.

This chart, from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – a widely respected nonpartisan fiscal organization that is much like an nongovernmental CBO, whose analysis are often used by members of both parties – shows three estimates on how much it would actually cost over the first ten years:

 

chart with nonpartisan estimates of Sanders' single payer plan
Note that the light blue estimate is by the liberal Urban Institute.

Fact Checking Sanders’ Healthcare Fairy Tale

I put red boxes around three of the five estimates for a reason. The grayish box comes from a conservative group, and also is (unsurprisingly) an outlier. Similarly, the Sanders campaign’s own “estimate” (I use that term loosely here, as all evidence suggests that it’s more marketing bluster) is also an extreme outlier.

What we have left are three independent estimates; two of which are virtually the same (Thorpe and CRFB) and one that estimates that Sanders’ plan will cost several hundred billion dollars a year more than the others. Given it’s track record, I’ll be generous and go with the CRFB’s numbers here.

Perhaps most interestingly, the light blue box comes from the Urban Institute, which is a liberal think tank. Other Urban Institute analysts pegged the number even higher, as the $29 estimate assumes that certain elements will not be included that are likely to be once this plan materializes into actual legislation.

 

American People Want the Public Option, not Single Payer

The reality is, the American people support the public option. They’ve supported the public option since 2009 when Obama and the Democrats nearly passed a system based on it (failing to do so was the single biggest blunder of Obama’s administration, and standing against it was a massive betrayal to centrists by moderate Democrats Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman to refuse to vote for it).

Given that these labels are so often misunderstood (I’ve been in dozens of conversations where people mistook the public option for single payer, or – just today – assumed that it meant wealthy people could just decide to not pay the taxes that fund the subsidization of poor peoples’ coverage).

They continue to support it today – it’s numbers appear to have even inched up a bit. Most polls have support in in the low to mid-60’s, but those numbers grow when you describe how these systems work, rather than just use the label.

Doing that increases the support for the public option from 62%, to 70% – far higher than any poll shows support for single-payer, and the highest level of support for any healthcare reform option that has been offered.

 

Reality Check: Sanders Plan Funded by Age-Old Corrupt Political Fairy Tale

The reality of this is that Sanders wants to give more than he’s willing to take, in order to buy support and pass legislation that fits his ideological view, while saddling future generations too young to vote and/or that haven’t even been born with the bill. This sort of greed is nothing new – stories of political corruption like this go back as far as historical records go.

Luckily, the chances that Sanders’ plan will pass are extremely small. Not only is there concern from liberal think tanks, but there are a number of liberal Democrats (Hillary Clinton, for instance) who have expressed concerns about it, and it remains unpopular.

As a connection on Twitter pointed out earlier, it may lose more support once the legislation is released an the CBO run the numbers on it and find that it would take only about a decade for it to cause the debt to skyrocket 40% higher than the highest point it ever reached in 1946, stemming from the astronomical cost of World War II, seen in the chart at the top of this post.

Sanders and the progressive wing of the party pushing this agenda are caught between two hard realities:

  1. The bill wont pass if it adds so many trillions of dollars to the national debt, among other reasons.
  2. The bill can’t be paid for without massive tax increases that have no chance of passing.

 

DO YOUR PART to Help Bipartisan Problem Solvers

While the legislation has yet to be worked out, groups like the Problem Solver’s Caucus in the House and the Bipartisan Policy Center are working on improvements to the current system that would bring costs down, give people more options and while it doesn’t include a public option, there is hope that future reforms will and this legislation actually has a chance of passing.

Do your part to help common sense prevail.

Take just a moment to tell your representatives that you support sensible, bipartisan reform like what the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Problem Solvers Caucus (Reps. Josh Gottheimer [D-NJ] and Tom Reed [R-NY] are the heads – click their first and last names for their Twitter and Facebook accounts) are working to pass, that they’re doing a great job and they have your support.

And, as always, share this with anyone you know that might agree – the failures of the left an right have gotten us to this point, but sensible, centrist improvements to our healthcare system are well within reach. Each and every one of us can help it happen with just a minute spent sharing the good word with your social networks.

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