Bernie Sanders releases universal health plan: 6 things to know

Hours before Sunday night's Democratic debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unveiled a healthcare plan that would "provide all Americans with the sense of freedom and peace of mind" through universal coverage.

Here are six things to know about the universal healthcare plan.

1. Sen. Sanders' plan creates a federally-administered, single-payer healthcare program. He has dubbed it "Medicare for All." His public insurance system would span the continuum of care, including inpatient, outpatient, preventive, emergency, primary, specialty, long-term, palliative, mental health, oral health, vision and hearing, in addition to prescriptions, diagnostics and medical equipment. Patients would not pay copays or have deductibles. According to Sen. Sanders, this would allow the government to negotiate with drug companies and better track healthcare access to avoid provider shortages.

2. He estimates the plan would cost $1.38 trillion annually. Over the next decade, Sen. Sanders said his plan would cost $6 trillion less than the current healthcare system, which currently costs $3 trillion annually.

3. His estimates indicate the typical family would save more than $5,000 each year and businesses would save more than $9,400 each year in healthcare costs for the average employee. According to Sen. Sanders, a family of four earning $50,000 would pay $466 per year to the program, compared to $4,955 in premiums and $1,318 in deductibles. Businesses would pay the program $3,100 for the average worker with a family who makes $50,000 a year, compared to $12,591.

4. The plan would be funded by a host of taxes, including the following.

  • A 6.2 percent income-based premium paid by employers that would generate $630 billion annually.
  • A 2.2 percent income-based premium paid by households that would generate $210 billion annually.
  • Progressive income tax rates that would generate $110 billion annually.
  • Tax on capital gains and dividends that would generate $92 billion per year.
  • Limited tax deductions for households making more than $250,000 annually, which would generate $15 billion per year.
  • Estate tax on the wealthiest 0.3 percent of Americans which would generate $21 billion in annual revenue.

He would also do away with tax breaks that subsidize healthcare, which would generate $310 billion each year.

5. Sen. Sanders says his plan will build on the gains made by the Affordable Care Act, not dismantle it. He lauds the progress made by the healthcare reform law in insuring 17 million uninsured Americans, Medicaid expansion across 31 states, increased protections against lifetime coverage limits and protection from exclusion due to pre-existing conditions. He notes he served on the Senate committee that helped pen the law. Yet his website notes that 29 million Americans remain uninsured, while millions are underinsured or cannot afford copayments and deductibles, and the U.S. still spends more on healthcare than any other advanced nation in the world.

6. Democratic frontrunner and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sen. Sanders' plan would take the country in the "wrong direction." In Sunday's debate, she said Sen. Sanders' plan would "tear [the ACA] up" and push the country back to square one. "I certainly respect Senator Sanders' intentions," she said. "But when you're talking about healthcare the details really matter." She later added, "We've accomplished so much already. I do not want to see the Republicans repeal it. And I don't want to see us start over again with a contentious debate. I want us to defend and build on the ACA and improve it." Sen. Sanders defended his plan and said it would not tear up the ACA.


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