Single-payer plan gets boost from Bernie Sanders' big New Hampshire win

With his decisive win in New Hampshire, one fact is certain: Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' plan for a single-payer healthcare system will remain in the spotlight.

Sanders touted the plan in his speech following his primary victory over rival Hillary Clinton, who largely wants to leave the Affordable Care Act intact.

"In my view, under President Obama's leadership, the Affordable Care Act has been an important step forward, no question about it. But, we can, and must, do better," Sanders said, adding that 29 million Americans are still uninsured, and even more are underinsured with large deductibles and co-payments.

"That is why I believe in a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program, which will not only guarantee healthcare for all, but will save the average middle class family thousands of dollars a year in healthcare costs," he said.

Sanders has said he would raise taxes on high-earners, employers and other entities to pay for the extra $1.38 trillion the plan would cost; though at least one analysis, from the Committee for a Responsible Budget, says those offsets would cover only three-fourths of the projected cost. Eliminating private payers also would have an economic cost, as they supply more than 515,000 direct jobs nationally and pay states $17.4 billion in premium taxes, FierceHealthPayer has reported.

Yet a study published Jan. 21 in the American Journal of Public Health makes an argument in favor of a single-payer system, finding that tax-funded expenditures already account for 64 percent of U.S. health spending and will comprise 67 percent by 2014. Study authors David Himmelstein, M.D., and Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., both co-founders of the group Physicians for a National Health Program, say this disputes the popular notion that the U.S. healthcare financing system is mostly private.

"Our study shows that universal coverage is affordable--without a big tax increase," Himmelstein said in a study announcement. "In fact, we already pay for national health insurance, but we don't get it."

To learn more:
- watch Sanders' speech
- check out the study (subscription required)
- read the study announcement

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