The #YangGang Shebang: How Universal Basic Income Could Solve the Healthcare Crisis | Teen Ink

The #YangGang Shebang: How Universal Basic Income Could Solve the Healthcare Crisis

July 16, 2019
By TrashPanda BRONZE, Westerville, Ohio
TrashPanda BRONZE, Westerville, Ohio
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

It’s primary season once again, and the candidates are off to the races. Dashing from state to state, hopefuls like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden are vying for voters’ attention following a dynamic double-header in Miami last week. So far, 2016 hot button issue, immigration, has proven it’s here to stay, but healthcare, the focus of Sen. Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, has been the true break-out star. Warranting multiple show-of-hands questions during the first round of debates and dominating large swathes of the conversation, healthcare may be the make-or-break factor in a field of candidates with largely homogenous views on immigration. It’s a shame, then, that the sole voice of reason on the issue of healthcare got the least time to speak during the second night of debates. That’s right, I’m talking about Andrew Yang, the tie-less wonder, and his plan for Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Now, unless you have been following Yang’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-them television appearances and interview spots, you probably haven’t heard of Universal Basic Income, so let me break it down. Basically, as president, Yang would grant every American eighteen or older a monthly salary of $1,000, no questions asked. Funding would come from new taxes on Amazon, which, Yang claimed during the second night of debates, paid zero dollars in taxes this past year. Further funding would come from a 10% value-added tax (VAT) on all transactions, with essentials like groceries exempt or taxed at lower rates. For top-earning Americans, Yang believes that the VAT tax would essentially recycle the extra $12,000 of spending money, making the system self-sufficient without inflicting a significant net harm on the middle and upper classes. Additionally, people on welfare and other government programs would have to trade in those benefits for their UBI checks, which would save a large portion of the estimated $500 to $600 billion spent on those programs annually.

This plan rivals Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare For All”, which has been adopted by competitors Elizabeth Warren and, depending on her most recent interview, Kamala Harris. Bernie’s “Medicare For All” plan would establish a public healthcare option and eliminate the private sector in the realm of health insurance. This stance, while well-intentioned, is a sloppy solution to the problem of inflated healthcare costs. Without competition from the private sector, the public Medicare option would feel no pressure to provide optimal service and would have no accountability in the form of consumer spending. Boycotts and private sector competition are necessary pressures that keep government agencies from slipping in quality and efficiency. If you don’t believe me, just visit your local BMV. Sen. Sanders’ plan would eliminate these pressures and would ultimately ruin the American healthcare system.

A more moderate plan, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare For All Who Want It”, sounds more appealing but suffers from other pitfalls. During the second night of the first Democratic debate, Mayor Buttigieg claimed that his plan would help low-income families “not live in financial fear.” This implies that these lower income families would not be paying for this Medicare service or would be paying very little. This vague explanation also hints that a “Medicare For All Who Want It” program would put the burden on middle and upper class families, whose taxes would fund the program, despite receiving no benefits from Medicare, and who would still have to pay for their own, private health insurance. A “Medicare For All Who Want It” system would also require a bracketing system to determine the definition of “low-income”. This would encourage families on the border of low-income to remain under the dotted-line, so they could preserve their Medicare benefits, stunting economic development. Ultimately, Buttigieg is another misled idealist, whose “Medicare For All Who Want It” plan comes closer to, but still misses the mark. 

Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income tactfully evades the downsides of both plans and may be the key to solving America’s broken healthcare system. Unfortunately, Yang currently supports some form of “Medicare For All” along with UBI, so when touting the merits of his policy, I refer solely to his Universal Basic Income plan; Medicare For All is an unfortunate and hopefully temporary stance that currently undermines his Universal Basic Income plan. 

Ultimately, though, Yang is still the closest to solving the healthcare crisis. Unlike Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare For All”, Yang’s UBI system would preserve the private sector but provide citizens with the financial means to pay for costly insurance, solving the problem of expensive health care and avoiding the possibility of a low-quality government alternative. Also, since UBI is given to all citizens over the age of 18, individuals would not become trapped in a “letter of the law” scenario like the one Pete Buttigieg’s “Medicare For All Who Want It” threatens, and Amazon, not middle and upper class citizens, would foot the bill. If, as some critics may be eager to point out, the private sector takes advantage of the increase in income and raises prices, a Yang administration could implement new regulations to effectively price-lock insurance and ensure fair play on the part of insurance giants. All in all, this solution is America’s best shot at fixing the healthcare industry and giving Americans the healthcare they desperately need. So if your vote in 2020 rides on the issue of healthcare, I would encourage you to take a nice long look at Universal Basic Income before sending a more foolhardy plan up against Donald Trump. 


First Democratic Debate, Night Two. Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Miami, FL. 27 June 2019. 


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