- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sen. Bernard Sanders released his long-awaited socialized medicine plan Sunday night, proposing $1.38 trillion in tax increases to have the government take over the country’s health care system.

The plan, dubbed “Medicare for all,” would replace the health policies most Americans currently get through their employers or purchase on their own. Everything from checkups to emergency room visits and long-term care, and vision and dental care would be included in the plan, which would give the government complete control over about one-fifth of the U.S. economy.

Mr. Sanders said it would erase the confusion of the current system, and would help lower overall health costs in the U.S. by giving the government more leverage with drug companies and other health industries.

“Universal health care is an idea that has been supported in the United States by Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman,” Mr. Sanders said.

“It is time for our country to join every other major industrialized nation on earth and guarantee health care to all citizens as a right, not a privilege,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement.

Hillary Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, had been pressing Mr. Sanders for the details of his plan, and on Sunday night her campaign blasted him as a flip-flopper, saying he’s backing away from the plan he has introduced in Congress.

Mr. Sanders said his plan would build on Obamacare, which expanded the government’s hand in health care, but still relies on consumers to deal with insurance companies, and it leaves millions of Americans still without coverage.

Mr. Sanders called Obamacare “a critically important step” but said it falls short of the universal health care system, liberals have sought.

But his proposal also will give ammunition to Mrs. Clinton and other critics who argue Mr. Sanders‘ approach would necessitate huge tax increases on individuals and businesses. The plan includes a variety of tax increases that would hit the wealthy, the middle class and employers, including a progressive system that would tax those making more than $10 million a year at 52 percent.

In his plan, Mr. Sanders proposes a 6.2 percent income-based health care premium to be paid by all employers, projected to raise about $630 billion per year.

He also wants a 2.2 percent income-based premium to be paid by American households earning more than $28,800 per year. Under that structure, Mr. Sanders says a family of four making $50,000 a year would pay $466.
The wealthy, however, would pay much more.

The health care surcharge would mean that those making between $250,000 and $500,000 would pay an overall income tax rate of 37 percent, while those making between $500,000 and $2 million would pay 43 percent.

The tax rate on households making between $2 million and $10 million would be 48 percent, and those making more than $10 million would face tax rates of 52 percent.

The progressive income tax system would rake in $110 billion a year, the Sanders campaign projects.

But Mr. Sanders says average families and businesses would see dramatic savings. A family making $50,000 a year, he says, would save nearly $6,000 annually, while businesses would save $9,400 each year.

The health plan and its accompanying tax increases join Mr. Sanders‘ other plans to offer debt-free college tuition to all students, and to fund a massive infrastructure surge. Those plans also rely on tax increases — a fee on stock trades, and a tax on corporations that shift profits offshore.

Tax policy analysts have questioned whether Mr. Sanders can squeeze enough money out of those sorts of taxes.

Mr. Sanders released his plan as he’s under direct attack from Mrs. Clinton over health care. The former secretary of state argues Mr. Sanders‘ Medicare-for-all plan makes the mistake of essentially dismantling Obamacare.

“Well, first, I share the goal of universal health care. So the goal is we want everybody to have access to quality, affordable healthcare,” she told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday. “But I think we should be defending the Affordable Care Act. This is a historic achievement for our country. It certainly is for President Obama. We are making progress. I want us to protect it, to defend it, and to improve it.”

Mrs. Clinton, who failed to secure a major health overhaul with her husband in 1993, now defends Obamacare, though she has offered some tweaks. She called for allowing annual doctor visits that wouldn’t count toward a patient’s deductible, and proposed a new tax credit for families to cover out-of-pocket health expenses.

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