Medicare for All pencils out if you consider current costs

Ken Oakes’ Aug. 21 letter to the editor about how to pay for Medicare for all implies that the cost will require new funding of $2.4 trillion. This is not the case. The money is currently coming from other sources, mainly employer-provided insurance, Medicaid, private payment and the current Medicare program for seniors.

Employer-provided health insurance is not free for anyone. It comes from a combination of two items which will vary with employers. These items are a reduction in salary for the employee and increased prices for the products that the employers produce.

If the employer did not provide health insurance, the employer would be forced to pay a higher salary to enable the employee to purchase his or her own insurance to compete with employers who do provide insurance. However, it is beneficial for employers to provide health insurance rather than pay a higher salary because of a quirk in the tax law.

During World War 2 the federal government imposed wage and price controls nationwide to prevent spiraling wages and prices that would have resulted from shortages of labor and goods that were being diverted to the war effort. However, the government allowed employers to circumvent wage controls by providing health insurance. So most employers chose to provide health insurance instead of higher pay.

Without this historical quirk, employer-provided health insurance would probably would have disappeared when the wage and price controls were lifted and we would have a more rational system of providing access to health care for our citizens like all other developed nations.

Medicare for all would simply reshuffle how health care is paid for. In the long run, wages would rise, prices would fall and taxes would rise, basically washing out. Of course this assumes that Medicare for all would not expand benefits as the current legislative proposal does.

Jerry Fraser


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