What Bernie Sanders Gets Wrong About Healthcare

Ever since Bernie Sanders became a nationally known figure during the 2016 Democratic primary race, his proposal to bring European-style publicly-provided universal healthcare to the US has become firmly entrenched in the country’s political mainstream. Sometimes called “single-payer healthcare,” the idea is to take private healthcare companies out of the equation and have the government directly pay healthcare costs. The most simple way of doing this, of which Sanders is a strong advocate, is to expand Medicare – which provides public healthcare to over-65s – to everyone, regardless of age. Other candidates in the 2020 Democratic Party primary have latched on to this “Medicare-for-all” proposal and support for it has become something of an acid test to gauge their progressive credentials. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard have pledged their backing, though in spite of their best efforts, the policy remains most closely associated with Sanders and his brand of democratic socialism (more accurately described as social democracy.)

But for someone who has been such a champion of the issue for so many years, it is remarkable how Sanders occasionally demonstrates considerable misunderstanding of its intricacies, and in doing so, plays straight into the hands of his right-wing and centrist opponents. The latest example of this happened during the July 30 Democratic primary debate. Host Jake Tapper asked Sanders about whether the proposal would require an increase in taxes. Just days earlier, Tapper had put the same question to Sanders during a one-on-one interview aired on CNN on July 28. Tapper played a clip of fellow Democratic Party primary candidate Joe Biden. In the video, Biden says that his opponents who say they can implement Medicare-for-all without raising taxes on the middle class are living in a “fantasy world.”

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