Sanders: Government-Run Single Payer Health Care Would Require Income and Payroll Tax Increases

May 28, 2019

During a town hall on Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) told the audience his healthcare plan, which would create a single payer, government-run system, would require tax increases for Americans.

Sanders was asked about how he would pay for his Medicare for All plan, which the Mercatus Center found would cost the federal government $32.6 trillion during the first ten years of its implementation.

"What we have chosen not to do, because it would just engender enormous debate, is to tell you how I'm going to raise every nickel in a $3.5 trillion budget," Sanders said, deferring on how he would raise the required amount of federal revenue to fund the expansive healthcare plan.

The self-described democratic-socialist senator from Vermont did give some details to the audience on what taxes he intends to raise to fund his Medicare for All proposal while claiming the proposal will actually cost less for American taxpayers because it will lower healthcare costs.

One area Sanders suggested he would look to raise taxes on is an increase in payroll taxes paid by employers. Most employers are already required to pay taxes on an employee's earnings including those for social security and Medicare.

He additionally added he would fund his government-run healthcare program by "an increase in income taxes in a progressive way for ordinary people." In his explanation, Sanders, who has been an outspoken advocate for single-payer healthcare systems for decades, said there would be a significant deductible for individuals who are on the lower end of the income scale "who will pay nothing for it."

Numerous Democrat presidential candidates have embraced Sanders's Medicare for All policy proposal including Sens. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.),  Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who all cosponsored the bill when he reintroduced it in Congress in April.

Sanders recognized the difficulties of reforming America's healthcare system during his appearance describing it as "a complicated issue."

His home state notably struggled with instituting a single-payer, state-run healthcare system in 2014 under a Democrat governor and Democrat-controlled state legislature. In that case, the governor proposed creating an 11.5 percent payroll tax paid by employers, similar to what Sanders suggested on Tuesday, to pay for the plan.  The legislature and governor's office ultimately ended up failing to find a way to sufficiently fund the proposal with the governor claiming the added payroll tax would pose "a risk of economic shock" to the state's economy.