Khanna

In the second-ever Medicare for All hearing in Congress, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California) got the deputy director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to admit a Medicare for All system could be a tremendous benefit for working-class Americans.

Wednesday’s Medicare for All hearing featured testimony from Mark Hadley, who has served as CBO Deputy Director since 2016. The CBO — a non-partisan body tasked with estimating the costs and cost savings of various policies — is generally viewed by economists as a reliable entity that has accurately forecasted budgetary impacts of both Democratic and Republican policies.

In one exchange between Rep. Khanna and Hadley, the California Congressman got Hadley to testify under oath that it was possible to create a single-payer healthcare system like Medicare for All that would cut healthcare costs for Americans making $75,000/year or less (more than half of all Americans), while simultaneously driving up wages for everyday workers.

“You could design a system that would be more progressive than the current system if you’re considering what they’re currently paying for healthcare as a tax,” Hadley said in response to Khanna’s question about whether or not workers could still have a net savings by paying higher payroll taxes but not having to pay premiums and deductibles to private insurers.

“But you could design a system in your view, that the ordinary American who is watching this, would pay less money, in terms of the fee they’re paying to the government than they are currently paying to healthcare, and they would get more money in their pocket in the form of increased wages, I mean, it’s possible to design that system?” Khanna asked.

“It’s possible to design a system that would do that for some people, yes,” Hadley responded.

Perhaps anticipating Republicans characterizing such a policy as socialist, Khanna then asked Hadley if such a system would be described by economists as a socialist system. Hadley confirmed that no, Medicare for All is not a socialist policy.

Both Khanna and Hadley are right in that businesses could increase workers’ wages under a Medicare for All system, according to 2018 findings from Charles Blahous, a researcher at the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University. That study estimated that business would save an average of $1.2 trillion each year, as that’s what businesses currently pay out in annual health benefits. Rather than provide employee health benefits, businesses could feasibly use that $1.2 trillion to bolster wages if there was a single-payer system.

In addition to representing California’s 17th Congressional District, Khanna is a senior adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vermont) presidential campaign. Sanders is one of the few Democratic presidential candidates calling for the for-profit private health insurance industry to be abolished.

 

Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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