NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Bradley Health Plan

December 6, 1999

Former Sen. Bill Bradley is the first credible presidential candidate to call for abolishing Medicaid and allowing low-income families to buy private insurance instead. He would also give tax relief to those who buy their own insurance by creating tax credits for low-income purchasers and tax deductions for everyone else.

Unfortunately, the Bradley plan has serious defects.

  • For example, Bradley's tax credits would penalize low-income workers by increasing marginal tax rates -- effectively taking 73 cents out of a last dollar of wages.
  • The proposal also would allow some taxpayers to triple-dip -- to get three separate tax breaks for the same insurance and waste federal money.
  • The plan would encourage middle-income families to purchase too much insurance, and it would turn the nation's health plan for federal employees into a dumping ground for the sickest, most costly patients.
  • And rather than creating private options for Medicare (as it does for Medicaid), the plan would enlarge and expand this federal program for seniors.

Bradley estimates the plan will cost $65 billion a year and will insure an additional 30 million people (about two-thirds of the current uninsured). This amounts to $2,200 for each newly insured person, or $8,800 for a family of four. Harvard University Professor Martin Feldstein , however, puts the price tag at $110 billion in the first year alone. That equals $3,300 for each newly insured person, or more than $13,000 for a family of four.

Source: John C. Goodman and Jack Strayer, "Bill Bradley's Health Plan: Two Steps Forward, Six Steps Back," Brief Analysis No. 309, December 3, 1999, National Center for Policy Analysis.

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