Who Cares About Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan?

Sanders' Healthcare PlanThere are substantive policy issues regarding the Bernie Sanders policy proposals. The main one that concerns me is Sanders’ healthcare plan.

Now, in a way, it doesn’t matter. We all know that nothing big is going to happen on the left anytime soon. If anything big happens, it will be on the right. If the economy tanks and Republicans take control of Washington, it will be very bad. I fully expect them to repeal Obamacare. And maybe I will have to go down to Mexico, where I could now certainly support myself and get low cost health and dental care.

But this is what’s so frustrating about dealing with this election on the Democratic side. The same people who claim that the Bernie Sanders’ policy proposals are unrealistic are also busy saying that we can’t afford them or that the numbers don’t add up. Still, it does matter to me that politicians that I support have policy proposals that make sense.

I think that Jonathan Chait lays out some valid concerns in his recent article, Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan Does Not Add Up. But just the same, he is playing the “big numbers” game on everyone and I don’t appreciate that.

The real question we have to ask here is whether we actually want to have a policy discussion. I do! But I certainly don’t think that Jonathan Chait does.

Chait referenced a study by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and he claimed Sanders’ healthcare plan “would still fall several trillion dollars short of covering its expenses.” Well, that makes it sound worse than it is. They claim $3 trillion over ten years. Given the total cost of the plan (roughly $15 trillion), that would be a shortfall of roughly 20%. That’s substantial, but that’s nothing compared to, say, Mitt Romney’s tax plan that was nothing but fairy dust.

So the truth is that Sanders’ healthcare plan could be fixed, assuming that this study is correct. I would like to see the Sanders campaign respond to these questions with more than denial. But you can see why it doesn’t. Chait’s article is a great example of this. Half of the article is taken up with Kenneth Thorpe’s analysis that the Sander campaign rightly calls a “complete hatchet job.” It claims that the proposal would cost $14 trillion more than Sanders claims. Thorpe’s claims have been called into question. Jonathan Cohn noted that, “Thorpe’s analysis is as subject to scrutiny and second-guessing as anybody’s.” And David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler provided a thorough refutation of it, On Kenneth Thorpe’s Analysis of Senator Sanders’ Single-Payer Reform Plan.

The real question we have to ask here is whether we actually want to have a policy discussion. I do! But I certainly don’t think that Jonathan Chait does. I think Chait just wants to snipe in a partisan way — that it’s all politics and no policy. Similarly, in The New Yorker, Alexandra Schwartz wrote, Should Millennials Get Over Bernie Sanders? That one was answered by Dean Baker, New Yorker Joins Open Season on Bernie Sanders.

The truth is that no one really wants to talk about Sanders’ healthcare plan or any of this stuff. The media certainly doesn’t. And by that, I’m not even talking about people like Chait who do care about policy when it suits them. But we have a media infrastructure that will not allow candidates to act in reasonable ways and alter their plans. Would it be seen as acceptable for him to alter it? I don’t think so. And I’m not exactly sure what the point would be, given that even if the Democrats were swept into office, the plan would be the starting point of a negotiation.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

13 thoughts on “Who Cares About Bernie Sanders’ Healthcare Plan?

  1. Honestly? Hit Mexico. Go there. I think this nation is f***ed beyond repair. I’d like to say, as Michael Moore did, “I can’t live in a country like this. And I’m not leaving,” but I can’t in good faith say that to anyone I respect. I think resistance is futile and we’re all doomed. I also think America is going to drag the world with it into total disaster. But there might be a window of relatively less disaster for Americans who can emigrate and get old and die before things get really horrific (for skilled American workers. Obviously things are already horrific for poor people, everywhere, right now.)

    Not saying, “don’t fight against.” Fighting against is what makes us mildly tolerable as a species; we have the ability to empathize with how others are treated abysmally.

    I’m saying, “flee this fucker.” If you can learn Spanish and get the hell out, get the hell out. Bank your cash you can live on with exchange rates, and go anywhere that will take you. It’s really getting all 1936 Germany up in here. And no rational person would tell a kind correspondent, “stay to fight it.” No. Leave, and leave now.

      • You learned the language of the law, which is Esperanto plus dumb. You could easily learn Scandinavian. I’m not kidding; you’d love it there, and you could make a serious difference. America is doomed, boned, and broken. There’s little point in any American trying to fix anything, besides repair actions attempting to reduce lead levels in the water Flint kids drink. Which we’ll probably fail at doing.

        • Sorry James-I still think America has a lot of value worth fighting for.
          I have read our history, this is not as bad as it could be.

          As a woman-I can vote, run for office, go out in public without an escort, not have to get married for my financial survival, I can leave if my spouse hit or abused me, wear pretty much anything I want to, and live a life that is pretty nice.

          I know that if I go to the store to buy some food, the food I eat is a lot less likely to kill me because there are safety standards (that could be improved of course) to keep it that way. That if I do get sick, I can sue the pants off that company and might win. I know that I can take a deep breath and not start choking because the air is actually pretty clean based on the pictures and data I have seen.

          In other words-there is a huge scope for improvement in the US but it is not as bad as I know it can be. I love my country. I want to keep fighting to improve it. Just not right now because I am tired of the fight and I need some me time.

    • Well, there is that: things don’t change for years and then they do. But my desire to leave is more about hiding away. And having chickens.

  2. Someone keeps pointing out that this requirement that the Democrats show their work is like the difference between Mom and Dad. Mom has to be the practical one who figures out how to get food on the table, the roof over our head and clothing to wear in public. Dad is the one who can buy the helicopter that no one knows where he got the money for-the dreamer.

    So the demand for Sanders to put out actual reasonable plans is the fact he is expected to be like Mom and show us how he can keep the food on the table. That he has to cook himself because lord knows Dad is totally inept. ;-)

    • That’s really interesting. I’ve never heard that analogy, but I’m sure there’s much too it. The media just seem to take it for granted that the Republicans aren’t going to make any sense. And that is apparently okay. Although in my family, it was dad who was the sensible one. My mother was gloriously brilliant and insane — which may explain my later relationships with women!

      • Oh it is a common analogy among my friends. It also is reflected in the debate questions asked-the Democrats have to show their work. No one cares on the Republican side, they just want the most insane quote they can get.

        • I watched about an hour of tonight’s debate. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t keep up with all the information. Marco Rubio said one of the things that is guaranteed to make me go ballistic. He said the federal government couldn’t do anything that wasn’t dictated in the Constitution. This was the main reason we needed to get rid of the Articles of the Confederacy. Yet again and again, I hear conservatives make this claim. And the reason is that the Republican Party really has become a neo-confederate movement. They don’t like the federal government, because they don’t like to be told that they have to treat everyone the same before the law. (Not that the states do anyway, but it was much worse when the federal government didn’t step in.)

          • If it was true that they need to do only what was in the Constitution, they might actually pass a proper budget.

            We may have to revise the date they want to go back to. I think it is now 1829.

              • Before the nullification was decided one way or another, before the 14th and after women lost the right to vote.

                • Yes, the early voting of women is an interesting thing. I suppose it has always been true that conservatives don’t want to protect the status quote. It’s even worse than Corey Robin claims: conservatives don’t want to stop liberation movements; they want to push them backwards. That’s certainly true today. And it was true back then the partial women’s suffrage was eliminated.

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