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Reality check: This presidential candidate's health plan will actually be devastating for the poor

Healthcare reform

(NaturalNews) It may not matter much now that Super Tuesday put Hillary Clinton well on her way to winning the Democratic presidential nomination, but the country very likely could not have withstood a health plan being offered by her chief rival for the nomination, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the avowed socialist "Independent" from Vermont.

If you think President Obama and the Democrats' "Affordable" Care Act is a disaster – and judging by the polls, most Americans do – Sanders' plan would have been worse, especially for the nation's poor, an analysis of the plan by a public health researcher at Emory University in Atlanta concluded.

As reported by the Washington Post, millions of families, including the working poor and lower-middle class, would be much worse off under the Sanders health plan.

At a press conference ahead of the South Carolina primary, Sanders told reporters in Columbia, S.C., that his single-payer plan, where the federal government – not the private health insurance industry – would reimburse doctors and hospitals for treatment (think Medicaid for all), would actually take "a huge bite" out of poor families' financial woes.

Sanders' plan estimated that a middle class family of four would pay an annual premium of about $460, and there would be no deductibles or co-payments. Households earning less would pay a lower amount or nothing at all.

As The Post reported further, however:

But for at least 72 percent of households enrolled in Medicaid -- in which someone is working -- the costs of Sanders's plan would exceed the benefits, according to an analysis by Kenneth Thorpe, a public-health expert at Emory University.

That figure includes 5.7 million households, or 14.5 million people -- among them, 4.2 million Hispanic recipients and 2.5 million black recipients. The requirements for eligibility for Medicaid vary widely by state, so that group includes some households living in poverty as well as some that are modestly better off.

"The vast majority of low-income Medicaid workers, who are probably predominantly minority, are going to end up paying more in terms of payroll taxes, and aren't going to receive really any financial benefits," said Thorpe, a former Clinton administration health official.

Millions of low-income Americans are already insured or eligible to be insured under Medicaid, which has been dramatically expanded already under Obamacare, through the adoption of so-called insurance exchanges by some states. But many Medicaid beneficiaries also work, and their wages would probably decline because of an additional 6.2 percent payroll tax that the Sanders plan would levy on their employers.

In addition, Thorpe says that Sanders is underestimating what his plan would actually cost by about $1.1 trillion annually. But no matter the plan's cost, he believes it would hurt many poor households.

Estimating that about 14.5 million Medicaid recipients would be worse off, Thorpe used the Sanders campaign's more generous cost estimates. Using his own, less rosy estimates, the figure rose to 16.8 million.

In an email to The Post's Wonkblog, Sanders's policy director, Warren Gunnels, said the candidate's plan would have other benefits for Medicaid recipients.

One of the major problems with Medicaid – and especially Obamacare's expansion of it – is that "coverage" does not equate to health care access. That's because a number of physicians and specialists do not accept Medicaid patients because Medicaid reimbursements are so low.

But Gunnels says putting more Americans on a single-payer Medicaid-like plan would magically solve that problem. The Post notes further:

For example, in a single-payer system, everyone would have federal health insurance, and it would be difficult for providers to deny patients on the federal plan without going out of business. "The reality is that people on Medicaid would see a substantial increase in the quality of care under Sen. Sanders' Medicare-for-all plan," he wrote.

That's unrealistic at best, and completely out of touch, at worst. We're already seeing where healthcare is going in the Age of Obamacare – concierge service, where patients pay a monthly "membership fee" to a physician practice (a premium, if you will), that doesn't accept traditional (or government) insurance reimbursement.

In any event, it likely won't matter, since it doesn't look like Sanders will win his party's nomination. But for her part, Clinton has voiced support for Obamacare, and why wouldn't she, considering she attempted the same kind of "reform" as first lady?





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