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Study Says Bernie Sanders’ Health Plan Could Double U.S. Debt

Bernie Sanders has come further than most people ever thought he would in the presidential race. He’s among the last three fighting for a presidential bid. Even though his chances of winning the nomination are still slim as long as he doesn’t convince superdelegates to support him, he has a huge number of millennials on his side. That’s probably due to his progressive policies. National healthcare, free state school tuition, taxing the richest of the rich—what millennial dealing with college debt and trying to fight for a decent job in the workforce wouldn’t want that?

However, there may be a pretty big mistake in Bernie’s plan. A study has found that his proposal for national healthcare would add up to more than $18 trillion in debt over a decade. This could mean that the middle class and poor would need to pay even more in taxes.

The Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute in Washington came up with these numbers. According to The Washington Post, Bernie’s programs would cost about $33 trillion in federal money, most of which would go to national health insurance. However, over the same time period of ten years, the American public would be paying $15 trillion in new taxes.

Doing the math (let’s see, 33 – 15 = 18…it’s been a long time since I’ve had to take a math class), there would be $18 trillion left over for the federal government to somehow come up with or borrow. “Thus, the proposed taxes are much too low to fully finance his health plan,” concluded the Urban Institute.

The U.S. already has about $19 trillion in national debt. If these studies are correct, Sanders’ programs could double the crippling amount.

This would create a potential drag on the U.S. economy, which could increase costs for pretty much everyone trying to invest in or buy things like homes or businesses. According to Politico, Len Burman, head of the Tax Policy Center, said “That could be very damaging to the economy…Sanders would obviously need a whole lot more revenues to pay for this.”

Bernie and his people don’t buy into the studies, though. “This study significantly understates the savings in administration, paperwork, and prescription drug prices that every major country on earth has successfully achieved by adopting a universal health care program,” said Warren Gunnells, Sanders’ policy director, to Politico. “If every other major country can spend less on health care and insure all of their people, so can the U.S.”

Sanders may be correct here. Currently, the United States is the only remaining industrialized country without some form of universal healthcare. “The fact of the matter is that the U.S. spends far more per capita on health care with worse health outcomes than any major country on earth,” continued Gunnels to The Washington Post.

Without including the $18 trillion to make up for, Sanders’ plan already called for tax hikes across the board. This was in the hopes that the benefits provided would outweigh the hikes—which is true for all except the top five percent.

People in the bottom 20 percent of income would pay about $209 more in taxes per year, but receive about $10,300 in benefits, according to NPR. However, the top 5 percent would pay over $130,000 per year in taxes—while only receiving about $19,000 in benefits. If the debt increases occurred, each bracket could need to pay even more taxes every year.

The study did not take into account increases in efficiency of healthcare spending that Bernie’s camp has in mind. The message is still pretty clear: unless Bernie is able to completely overhaul the healthcare system, universal healthcare would cost a lot of money.


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Bridget Higgins

U Mass Amherst

Bridget is a senior Journalism major focusing on political journalism at UMass Amherst. She interned for the HC editorial team, writes columns for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, and occasionally gets a freelance article or two on sailing published by Ocean Navigator Magazine. When she isn't greeting random puppies on the street, she loves to cook for her friends, perpetuate her coffee addiction, and spend too much time crafting Tweets. She is also an avid fan of chocolate anything and unnecessary pillows. If you want to know more about Bridget, follow her on Instagram - @bridget_higgins - or Twitter - @bridgehiggins