Bernie Sanders Supporters Grill Him on How to Pay for Medicare for All at Town Hall


Independent Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders faced surprisingly tough questions from his own supporters over how he plans to pay for his “Medicare for All” plan.

Senator Sanders took questions from a supportive crowd during a Medicare for All town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire on Monday, but even this friendly crowd had questions about how to fund the bill.

The first question came from a woman named Lisa from Boston, who had a couple of tough questions about the plan.

“I’ve done the math, I’ve found out how many people pay taxes, I found out what what’s the healthcare expenditure in 2017, and what it came to was about $28,000 per taxpayer,” she said, and added that “when I looked at my premiums, my out-of-pocket expenses, my Medicare taxes, I was already paying that much.”

“I just want to challenge you to simplify your message,” she continued, suggesting Sanders “put up a chart that really just simplifies and shows this is what we are paying right now, and this is what it is per person, and this is what it’s going to be.”

Her second question was about the a shortage of doctors, which she attributed to the high cost of college.

“So right now we don’t have enough doctors, so if we open up medical for everybody, it’s going to be even more dysfunctional,” she said.

Sanders delivered a lengthy answer to both questions that included a humorous riff on political ads he expects to see run against him.

“I think you’re right, I think we have to do a better job in explaining to the American people how we are going to finance this, and what it means,” Sanders acknowledged, and said “Mark my words, there will be ads on New Hampshire television that will say ‘Bernie Sanders,’ with some creepy voice, and some terrible picture of me, ‘wants to raise the taxes on the hard-working people of New Hampshire. Don’t let him do it! Call up 1-800 and tell Bernie he’s a terrible human being.'”

He added that at the end of the ad, “you’ll find that it’s paid by some bogus group which is funded by the insurance companies and the drug companies, who together made 100 billion in profits last year.”

Sanders went on to explain that not everyone will pay the same amount, saying “our proposal says that we exempt anyone anybody making, the first 29,000 is exempted. So you make $60,000 that means you’re paying on $21,000. Not a lot of taxes. Okay if you are upper income, yes you are going to pay a lot more.”

He then used the example that he’s been favoring lately, telling Lisa that “the American people are smart enough to understand that instead of paying $20,000 in premiums, you pay $10,000 in taxes more, you’re $10,000 to the good, and you have a better health care plan.”

Sanders is absolutely correct that his plan would be far more comprehensive than most any other plan, but on average, most Americans don’t pay anywhere near what Sanders says in premiums and out-of-pocket costs. People with employer-sponsored health insurance pay an average of $1400 a year in premiums and $800 a year in out-of-pocket costs, and individual plans average a little over $5000 a year in premiums without subsidies — which families earning less than 100,000 a year qualify for.

Lisa also identified the potential disruptive effects of M4A on medical providers, to which Sanders offered  no clear solution beyond waiting for a generation of free medical school to kick in.

Sanders’ next question was from a woman who also expressed skepticism about raising taxes, and offered a very Bernie solution.

“You’re telling us you’ve got to raise taxes to do this, why can’t we adjust the curve by just, for defense, and pay for us now, as opposed to making us, you know, this futuristic thing?” she asked, adding “I’m not saying we don’t do it, I think it’s a great idea, we just have to turn it around because raising taxes is not probably going to fly for everyone here in New Hampshire.”

Sanders agreed that defense spending is too high, and that corporations pay too little in taxes, but added “I don’t want to lie to you. All right?”

“If I told you magically you were going to have great health care and it was not going to cost you a penny, would you believe me?” Sanders said. “So we’ve got to be honest.”

After repeating his $20,000 example, Sanders reiterated “I can’t lie, I can’t tell you this is what what goes on in Canada, people pay for it, but they pay less than what we pay here, and you heard the story of that woman what you got for what she pays. But she pays for it, she pays Out of a tax. Based on your ability to pay.”

Sanders’ repeated references to lying about the tax increases that Medicare for All would require echoes recent criticisms of Elizabeth Warren over her refusal to acknowledge the same, although Sanders did not reference Warren by name.

Watch both clips above, via Bernie Sanders for President.

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