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Why You Should Be Excited for Biden’s Public Option Plan, Lisa Lesniak

1. It can be passed.

2. Benefits low to middle income earners.

3. Gets more Americans on insurance.

1. The Biden Public Option Plan

The Biden Public Option is an insurance plan offered by the government to all Americans as an alternative to private insurance. Bernie Sanders’ issues with it are that it is too piecemeal and essentially retains the status quo. But Biden's plan contains many of the benefits of a traditional single-payer plan (such as Medicare for All). The main difference is that his plan has an actual chance of being enacted in the first 100 days (if we gain the Senate, see previous Blog, The Case for Progressives to Support Biden.)

Biden has several concerns about Medicare For All. First, unions have negotiated lower earnings in exchange for employer provided health care. Second, there is concern for the more than 2.6 million employees of the insurance industry (plus more in satellite industries such insurance aids). Last, the notion people want their choice of insurance and doctor remains high. The Biden Public Option plan positively addresses these concerns

2. Benefit to low- and middle-income earners

Biden’s plan raises the incomes of poor and working-class people while making significant strides towards universal coverage just like a single-payer system, which envisions to address poverty, not just health care. The pay of low- and middle-income workers would rise when shifting from employer-sponsored to government-sponsored health insurance. Profit-seeking companies always look to cut costs, and those cuts most often occur by reducing compensation to workers. Employers are not concerned with how those costs are distributed. If an employee costs $50,000, $30,000 in salary and $20,000 in healthcare versus $50,000 for salary, employers still have the same cost; however, the employee obviously has more salary.

The Social Security Administration estimates this hurts low-wage workers the most as the costs of employer-sponsored health insurance cuts pay by 10% for workers in the bottom half of the wage distribution but pay falls by only 4% for the richest workers.

Single-payer systems can increase the incomes of working-class people since government-sponsored insurance can be funded through higher taxes on the incomes, estates, and spending of the rich. Employer based plans cannot be funded through taxes. Current federal income tax law taxes dividends and long-term capital gains at low rates. In 2014 (the most recent year for data), the 400 highest-income Americans drew three-quarters of their income from these two sources. As a result, they paid just 23% of their income in taxes.

Biden would repeal this specialized rate for all taxpayers with incomes above $1 million, generating more than $440 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, to fund generous healthcare subsidies for low-income Americans. Thus, his public option, like single payer, would raise the incomes of the poor while lowering the incomes of the rich.

3. Getting More Americans Health Insurance

Covering everybody is the goal and great benefit of single-payer healthcare. Although Biden's plan does not cover 100% of American, it would leave just under 3% of the population uninsured. This is 3% higher than what single-payer advocates want!

Biden's plan significantly diverges from the status quo. Prior to the Covid 19 pandemic, 8.5% of Americans were uninsured. By covering over 97% of the population, Biden would get us almost all the way to universal coverage. Biden's public option deserves to be viewed as a compassionate step in the direction of universal coverage similar to Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA.

Most important, however, Biden’s plan will not cost Democrats the election. A January 2019 poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 74% of Americans believe that people should be given the option to buy insurance from the government. By contrast, 56% support Medicare For All (MFA), and support falls to just 37% when poll participants learn that MFA would eliminate private insurance. Although much education could be attempted to inform these people the true cost and savings of Medicare for All, this takes time, which is a luxury we do not currently have.

If endorsing an unpopular proposal like Medicare For All keeps Donald Trump in the White House, Democrats will have sacrificed the perfect healthcare plan for the good healthcare plan, the good climate plan, the good education plan, and so much more. If you are a supporter of single-payer, make sure to vote for Joe Biden's public option in November.

Lisa Lesniak condensed the article published by Nick Buffie on on August 9, 2020. Buffie completed a Master’s in Public Policy degree at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). Before that, he spent three years working at two economic policy think tanks in Washington, D.C.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

Read the original article on Opinion Contributor. Copyright 2020.

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