Since I was first diagnosed with cancer last year, my Medicare supplemental policy insurance has been billed just over $307,000 for the physician care, tests, biopsies, scans and treatments I’ve received. Because Medicare and the insurance company have been able to negotiate lower costs with the providers, they have paid only a portion of that amount, and my total out-of-pocket expenses are capped at $6700 per year. It’s still a hefty amount which threatens to destroy whatever meager savings we have managed to accumulate, but I am extremely grateful to have the coverage and wish all Americans could have the security of knowing they can get affordable care, should they face a similar diagnosis or a catastrophic accident requiring extensive care. Which is why the idea of universal coverage as Bernie Sanders proposes appeals to me a great deal. I like a lot of Bernie Sanders plans in theory. But I have a lot of questions on how some of these plans would actually be implemented and question his and his campaign managers’ grasp of financial matters, I find myself asking, "How?" to most of what Sanders says he is going to do. "How do you plan to convince Congress to increase taxes on the rich, increase wages, create jobs, extend Medicare to all as well as guarantee a free college education, etc.?" How much does Sen. Sanders actually know about how Medicare works? Does he realize how much those of us receiving Medicare have paid into it, how much our monthly premium deducted form our Social Security checks for Part B coverage is? Does he know that we have a pretty hefty out of pocket expense and that while it does provide many preventative services, Medicare does not cover most dental or eye care services, and does not cover hearing aids? What about the current Medicare portion of the FICA payroll tax paid by both employers and employees to cover Medicare premiums? Now the Medicare tax is 1.45% for those earning under $200,000. Those earning more than that amount also pay an additional 0.9% Medicare surtax. Will that be increased or will the tax be scrapped and rolled into an all inclusive payroll tax for universal healthcare? What about the unemployed? How will their tax be covered? Medicare is truly a wonderful thing as is the idea of universal healthcare is a goal we should strive for. I believe the Affordable Care Act is a first step in the right direction toward achieving that goal, but when I look at the Republican congressional opposition to it, the number of efforts to overturn the law and the many Republican governors who have refused to expand Medicaid so that their constituents are eligible , I wonder just how realistic many of Sanders sweeping proposals and promises are as opposed to Secretary Clinton’s more pragmatic approach and her determination to support down ticket Democratic candidates at state levels. Because it is as the state and local level that a lot of legislative change and political leverage is needed
A question about Bernie Sanders’ free college for all plan. According to the summary on his site, Sanders’ plan states that total tuition at public colleges and universities amounts to about $70 billion per year. Of that cost, under the Sanders plan the federal government would be responsible for 67% of the cost while the states would be required to pick up the remaining 33% . But according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states have been cutting funding for K-12 programs since the 2008 recession and most states have not restored those earlier levels. In fact, in about half the states reporting, less general aid per student is being provided now than in 2008, and In three states, including Alabama, funding cuts are 15% or more.
The cuts also affect higher education. While state funding for higher education has been rising slightly in the last couple of years, there is still a large reliance on student tuition to fund higher education. US News reports that, “ Overall, half of states now receive more financial support from tuition dollars than from state or local funding. And the reliance on tuition revenue varies widely between states, from a low of 15.1 percent in Wyoming to a high of 84.5 percent in Vermont.”
Sanders’ plan calls for financing the federal funding by Imposing a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street, a Wall Street speculation fee on investment houses, hedge funds, and other speculators of 0.5% on stock trades (50 cents for every $100 worth of stock), a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005%fee on derivatives. He estimates that this fee will raise the necessary money with some left over, but nowhere in the plan does he address the problem of where the already cash-strapped states are going to come up with their share, nor of what happens if there is another recession or a drop in speculation, stock trades, etc.
Sen. Sanders said, “I promise at the end of my first term we won't have more people in jail than in any other country. .But according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of the 2.2 million Americans in prison at the end of 2013, only 215,000 inmates, less than 10% were in federal prisons. The rest were in state and local facilities. Even if he freed every prisoner in federal prisons, we would still have 2 million people in prison.
I worry, with so many Sanders supporters vowing that they will not support Clinton if Sanders loses the nomination, that all the enthusiasm for the “revolution” that Senator Sanders is calling for will die down and that his followers will drop out rather than continue to work on passing progressive legislation and in getting progressives elected to local and state offices.
So, yes, I have a lot of misgivings about Senator Sanders’ proposals, and policies and the way he has used the Democratic Party he has scorned as being part of the establishment responsible for our current inequities and problems to further his own candidacy without supporting other progressives within the party. Both candidates have flaws, all politicians do, and no politician is going to be able to please 100 percent of his or her constituency all of the time. What I wonder about is, do Sanders and his supporters realize that bankers and the 1% are also part of the fabric of this country with rights and interests. Their interests shouldn’t outweigh the interests of middle class and poor Americans as they have in the past and do now, but in order to institute reforms and rein in the influence of money in politics, compromises will have to be negotiated. In order to accommodate the interests of a diverse populace and best serve the needs of the country as a whole, adversaries with different ideologies will have to work together. Given that Sanders has castigated and alienated the banking industry and the rich to a large degree, I’m not sure Sanders is the best candidate to effect those changes, reforms and compromises.