Bloomberg Analysis: Poorer Families Lose Under Sanders Plan

Taxpayers with employer-sponsored insurance also likely to pay more on Medicare for all

Sen. Bernie Sanders / Getty Images
July 2, 2019

Most Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance and poorer families on Medicaid will come out on the losing end of Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) Medicare for All proposal.

That's according to a Bloomberg analysis of Sanders's universal health care plan, which he admits will increase middle class taxes but claims will save money for Americans overall because of reduced health insurance costs.

"People who have health care under Medicare for All will have no premiums, no deductibles, no co-payments, no out-of-pocket expenses," Sanders said at last week's Democratic debate. "Yes, they will pay more in taxes, but less in health care for what they get."

However, the report finds that for many of the roughly 181 million Americans who get health insurance through their employer, they would wind up paying more overall if their taxes went up $10,000:

Many of the 181 million taxpayers with employer-sponsored coverage are likely to see their taxes go higher than their current health care spending, because about 56% of their medical costs are covered by their company, according to the Milliman Medical Index, which tracks annual health care spending.

For example, a person making $50,000 with employer-sponsored coverage spends about $5,250 annually on health care, meaning that under Sanders's plan, her or his taxes would be nearly double the person’s current health care costs. If that person bought her or his own insurance, it would cost about $10,000, equalizing the $10,000 tax increase.

It's also tough on people who use Medicaid, the government health insurance program for poorer Americans. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a family of four earning $30,000 spends roughly $1,200 a year on health care costs. With Sanders's plan, their new tax burden would likely far outpace any savings on health payments.

Studies estimate Sanders's Medicare for All plan would cost more than $32 trillion over the next 10 years, which is roughly 150 percent of the current national debt. Bloomberg reported health care experts fear the cost could be even higher, given his proposal "assumes that health providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates, about 40 percent below what they receive from private insurers."

Manhattan Institute senior fellow Brian Riedl told Bloomberg "there are likely to be a lot more losers than winners" in Sanders's plan.

The report also provided the example of a two-income family of four, making $100,000 with at least one member in poor health. The family with employer-sponsored health insurance would come out in the red under Sanders's plan:

A family of four with two incomes that total $100,000 who buys insurance on their own and has at least one member in poor health spends about $30,400 on health costs annually, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation. An identical family that has employer-sponsored health care spends $15,000 annually.

Under Sanders's plan, the family who buys insurance on their own could pay $20,000 in additional taxes but come out ahead. If they had insurance provided through their jobs, that’s a $5,000 net loss.

One think tank told Bloomberg the more likely to benefit from a Sanders administration would be older, sicker Americans with high out-of-pocket costs, as well as larger families.

Sanders is in the top tier of 2020 Democratic candidates, but he still trails Joe Biden in the polls and has Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) on his heels.