As the national debate about health care kicks off ahead of the 2020 presidential election, we’re going to be hearing a lot about the costs of increasingly popular progressive proposals to provide universal health care, like Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All plan.
One regular hold back on the privilege and the inside left indistinguishable: Since the rich can’t take care of everything alone, are center and average workers supporters of a progressively associated human services framework truly prepared to pay as much for it as individuals do in a portion of the high-charge countries that have one?
The problem is, we already do, and we often pay more.
It’s true that by conventional measures, taxes on workers’ wages in the United States are comparatively very low and even very progressive, affecting the lowest-earning workers the least and taxing those who can afford it more.
But these measures obscure an important fact of American life: Unlike workers in many other countries, the vast majority of American employees have private health insurance premiums deducted from their paychecks.
Just how heavy is the burden placed on American workers by employer insurance premiums? By combining data from the O.E.C.D.Taxing Wages model with data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, we can see what percentage of each worker’s compensation — a figure that includes cash wages as well as the taxes and benefits employers pay on behalf of their employees — goes toward taxes and health care, and how progressive these payments really are.
What this data shows is that lower-income workers, higher-income workers, single workers, and married workers with children all contribute around 40 percent of their pay toward taxes and health premiums. And when those health care costs are taken into account, the less well-off no longer pay less than high-earners, as they do in taxes alone.
So, while opponents of comprehensive plans like Medicare for All claim those plans will greatly burden middle-class families, the truth is that we already have an unfair system. Middle-class workers in America are charged the same health insurance fees as upper-class workers despite the vast income differences between the two groups, and pay more of their earnings toward taxes and health care than workers in many wealthy countries.