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Trump op-ed: What is Bernie Sanders Medicare for All, healthcare plan?

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Sen. Bernie Sanders and
President Donald Trump

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Edelman/Getty Images; Win McNamee/Getty Images; Bob
Bryan/Business Insider


  • President Donald Trump has turned his attention to Sen.
    Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan over the past few days.
  • In an op-ed for USA Today, Trump bashed the idea. Later, he
    called Medicare for All a “disaster” during an interview on Fox
    News.
  • The plan would make the federal government the single
    provider of insurance, eliminating private insurance and
    premiums.
  • Advocates say it would give all access to health coverage and
    alleviate high costs for middle-class Americans.
  • Detractors say it would upend the healthcare system and cause
    a massive burden on the federal government.
  • Trump’s focus on the issue appears to be in response to
    Democrats decisive advantage on healthcare heading into the
    midterms.

President Donald Trump in recent days has found a new political
boogeyman in Democrats’ “Medicare-for-All” proposal.

In an op-ed for USA Today published Wednesday, Trump took shots at the healthcare
overhaul
that has been proposed and popularized by
progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders.

Throughout the year, we have seen Democrats across the
country uniting around a new legislative proposal that would end
Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have
paid for their entire lives
,” Trump wrote.

The president again blasted the concept during an interview on
Fox News, calling it a “catastrophe” and “disaster.”

While the president seems to be zeroing in on the Medicare for
All plan, the idea has been picking up steam among Democrats and
the general public. To help get a sense of the issue, we’ve
broken down Sanders’ plan and what it would mean for consumers,
the federal government, and healthcare providers.

What is the basic idea and what would it cost?

Democrats have proposed different ways to go about changing the
healthcare system: Some want to shore up and expand Obamacare.
Others want to create a public option for people to opt in for
government-funded coverage.

But Trump’s attacks appear to be targeting specifically at the
Medicare for All idea pushed by Sanders during the 2016 election.

  • In Sanders’ plan, the current Medicare program for elderly
    Americans would be
    expanded to cover all Americans
    .
  • Current Medicare recipients would see their benefits expanded
    as areas like dental and vision would begin to be covered.
  • The age to qualify for the program would drop each year for
    four years until all Americans qualified.
  • So contrary to Trump’s assertion that the plan would
    take away benefits” from seniors,
    it would — in theory — expand those benefits.

By eliminating private insurance, Sanders’ plan would
significantly shift the cost burden to the federal government. To
fund the new program, Medicare for All would impose a series of
new taxes but require no co-payments, premiums, or deductibles.

As Trump pointed out,
a recent study
by the Mercatus Center — a free market,
anti-regulation think tank — found that Sanders’ plan would cost
the government $32.6 trillion over a 10-year period.

But the same study determined that
overall healthcare costs for the whole US system
— what the
government, private companies, and households paid for healthcare
— would come in lower than current projections, using the Sanders
plan’s assumptions (more on those in a minute).

Even assuming large costs, advocates argue it would be a
small price to pay to ensure every American
has access to
healthcare and faces lower personal costs.

Change the healthcare system as we know it

Several thorny issues emerge in the Medicare for All debate,
ranging from doctor pay to prescription drug development.

Sanders’ plan assumes doctors and hospitals would be paid by the
government at a rate equal to current Medicare reimbursement
rates, which are generally lower than the rate private insurers
pay.

This would save the system money overall, but would also
significantly cut reimbursement rates
for some healthcare
providers. Critics of the plan argue that cutting those
reimbursement rates to the Medicare level, which are 40% lower
than private plans in some cases, couldn’t work because it would
disincentivize people from becoming doctors and roil the
healthcare system as we know it.

Advocates note the plan would also
eliminate a slew of overhead and administrative costs
by
streamlining the billing and reporting system. Instead of dealing
with a confusing jumble of private insurers and plans, doctors
and healthcare providers would only work with a single payer.

In addition, Sanders’ plan would attempt to
extract lower prices
from pharmaceutical manufacturers. But
critics contend that lower payments will reduce spending on
research and development at pharma companies and may stifle
innovation in the field. 

It’s gaining popularity

While Trump and the GOP have slammed Medicare for All, the
concept is actually gaining steam among the American public:

  • According to recent polls, a majority of Americans support a
    Medicare for All plan.

  • A March poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation
    , a
    nonpartisan health policy think tank, found 59% of people
    surveyed supported Sanders’ Medicare for All plan, while 75%
    supported a public option, opt-in system.
  • Similarly,
    a June poll from Politico
    found 63% of people surveyed
    supported Medicare for All.
  • A Reuters-Ipsos
    poll
    in August found 70% of
    Americans — including 51% of Republicans — supported the
    idea.

Even in the Democratic Party, there has been a rapid shift toward
supporting Medicare for All. During the 2016 primaries,
then-candidate Hillary Clinton dismissed
the idea
 as politically impractical and said it would
“never, ever happen.”

But in September, former President Barack Obama praised the idea
and said new Democratic politicians were “running on good
new ideas” like it. Sanders’ plan, meanwhile, garnered
16 cosponsors
in the Senate in 2017, with many of the
frontrunners for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination
hopping on board.


Ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats are hammering the
GOP
on healthcare, 

and it seems to be a
political winner. According to a Fox News poll released in
September
, 49% of people think Democrats would do a better
job handling healthcare, while just 34% of people preferred the
GOP to handle it.


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