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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Advocates of a single-payer system may have a hard time persuading workers that their wages would go up if their employer-based health care went away.

Why it matters: “Medicare for All” would bring an enormous amount of change to the health system, and the disruption of employer-based insurance is already an important political flashpoint.

"For a socialist, you've got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do,” former Vice President Joe Biden said to Sen. Bernie Sanders at last week’s Democratic debate, in response to Sanders’ assurances that employers would raise wages if they were no longer paying for health benefits.

By the numbers: Sanders’ view is an article of faith among most economists, but a majority of Americans aren’t so sure.

  • In a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 63% of people surveyed said they thought their wages would stay the same if their employers’ health costs went down; another 5% weren’t sure.
  • Just 32% said they thought their wages would go up.

Between the lines: It is likely true that employers would reap big savings if the government took insurance off their hands, and that many would plough savings back into wages, as economists believe.

  • It’s just that workers don’t necessarily believe those savings will end up in their paychecks, creating an additional challenge for selling Medicare for All.
  • Wage growth has been sluggish lately, making workers generally dubious that wages would increase.
  • Or it could simply be because they don’t trust their employers for any number of reasons.
  • Savings might also be offset if Medicare for All is financed by a substantial payroll tax.

My thought bubble: Economic orthodoxy aside, it’s not a crazy concern. As an employer, I know there are many competing priorities, including wage increases, vying for the windfall if our health costs went away.

The bottom line: One big knock on “Medicare for All” is voters’ distrust of government. But distrust of employers could matter, too.

  • It’s possible that lower-wage workers, who generally have lousier coverage, will be more willing than their higher-income counterparts to trade it in for something new.

Go deeper

FBI, Homeland Security warn of increasing threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

14 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).

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