I’m a great admirer and appreciative reader of Harold Meyerson, editor at large of The American Prospect and a frequent op-ed. writer for The Washington Post.  In a recent newsletter, Meyerson tries to show how Elizabeth Warren can defend her advocacy of single-payer health care even though it will require broad-based tax increases.  (As I pointed out in a recent post, Warren has been evading the tax issue, insisting that total costs will go down for most people under single payer.) Meyerson explains

…the great majority of Americans pay far more for their private insurance than they would in higher taxes [under single-payer], though what they pay now is largely concealed from them because their employer routinely takes it out of their pay. (Of course, if we do go to Medicare for All, workers will have to fight to compel their bosses to transfer the savings to them, rather than divert it into dividends and buybacks.)      [emphasis added]

The idea is that total costs will go down for most people under single payer because savings on health care will more than compensate for tax increases.  For people who get health insurance through their work (about half of working Americans), their employers will be able to increase wages in the amount that they used to pay in health insurance premiums.  But note that last parenthetical caveat. Single payer assumes that employers will pass on their health insurance cost savings to their employees, rather than pocket the cash for themselves.  Huh? What assurance is there of that?  Meyerson concedes that employees will have to fight to get the savings, but how will they fight?  Unionized workers can reasonably hope that their unions will get employers to pass on the savings, but unions organize only about 10% of the work force.  What about everybody else? Will workers have to rely on the good-heartedness of their bosses? How will that work out?  Medicare for all advocates need to acknowledge and deal credibly with this problem.  Meyerson does no more than allude to the issue in a  parenthetical aside.  That doesn’t do the job.




  1. Jeffrey Herrmann October 28, 2019 at 2:30 am

    As with tRump’s tax reduction for corporations, the extra cash businesses will have if they are relieved of the health insurance expenditure will go to stock buy-backs or dividend payouts, maybe even CEO bonuses. Almost no workers got higher wages when corporate taxes were reduced; why think they would from the shifting of health costs to the public treasury?
    Warren needs to back down to a scheme of choice for all – single payer for those who want it, and private health insurance for those who simply love filling out endless forms and always fighting with the insurance companies, whose policies are to try to deny coverage on some pretext. What fun! If that’s what some people want, they should have it — good and hard, as Mencken said about democracy.

  2. Alfred Wegener October 28, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    How to do it isn’t the problem.Lots of ways to do it. The problem is a government that lacks a strong enough commitment to the workers rather than to the bosses.It should not be a question of how the unions/workers can do this. The government should and can handle this.

    • tonygreco October 28, 2019 at 8:09 pm

      Are there ways for government to compel or induce employers to pass on health care savings to their workers? Maybe, but I can’t think of one. Medicare for All advocates need to be able to specify how that could be done.

      • Donald Campbell October 29, 2019 at 5:51 pm

        Why should employers pay any less than they do now for the medical system? Pretty easy to check and enforce if you have politicians who actually represent the people!

  3. Alfred Wegener October 29, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Yes, they need to do so and they will.Just like all the other details that need to be worked out for all the other major changes in our govt that need to be made.But I believe we should not let these details stand in the way of providing the support needed for these changes.

Have a comment?

Required fields are marked (*)