American families are paying a hidden $8,000 ‘poll tax’ to cover their healthcare costs, 2 economists argue

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REUTERS/Joe Skipper
  • Families are paying a $8,000 “poll tax” to cover the skyrocketing cost of healthcare in the United States, two top economists from Princeton University argue.
  • American healthcare is the world’s most expensive and its cost far surpasses those of other developed nations.
  • The US spends $1 trillion more than Switzerland, the second-most expensive system. It rounds out to an additional $8,000 a year that American households pay compared to Swiss ones.
  • The economists – Anne Case and Angus Deaton – called it a “poll tax,” meaning Americans must pay the amount regardless of their ability to do so.
  • Any attempt at reform faces an uphill battle in Congress where powerful interests within the healthcare industry have fought efforts to amend the system.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Families are paying a $8,000 “poll tax” to cover the skyrocketing cost of healthcare in the United States, two top economists argue.

Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton said at an economic conference in San Diego that most American families are being left behind as a slice of the population grows richer, the Washington Post reported.

American healthcare is the world’s most expensive and its cost far surpasses those of other developed nations. The US spends $1 trillion more than Switzerland, the second-most expensive system. It rounds out to an additional $8,000 a year that American households pay compared to Swiss ones.

Case and Deaton called the additional $8,000 that families pay a “poll tax,” meaning Americans are forced to pay the amount regardless of their ability to do so. And they compared the nation’s healthcare system to “a tribute to a foreign power, but we’re doing it to ourselves.”

According to data from Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, the US spent $10,209 on healthcare per capita, or per person, in 2017. Life expectancy, though, is dropping in the US.

Case and Deaton are known for their research on “deaths of despair” in the US. They found that Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 have either committed suicide, died from alcohol-related health issues, or overdosed on opioids at staggering levels since 2000.

The trend is particularly pronounced among white Americans without a college education as they confront worsened prospects for employment.

Repairing the US healthcare system has been a focal point in the Democratic presidential primary. Progressives like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are championing “Medicare for All,” a system where the government provides comprehensive health insurance for every American.

Moderates such as former Vice President Joe Biden instead seek to inject more federal subsidies into the insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act to make healthcare more affordable and create an optional government insurance plan.

Still, any attempt at reform likely face challenges from the deep-pocketed lobbying interests within the formidable healthcare industry, such as insurers and doctor’s groups.

Outside pressure late last year killed a congressional attempt to end so-called “surprise-billing,” when a patient goes to an “in-network hospital” their insurer covers but are treated by medical staff that could be out of their network, resulting in a large medical bill. The legislation had overwhelming support among Americans, polls showed.