Medicine

Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ Plan Would Cost Additional $32.6 Trillion

Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ Plan Would Cost Additional $32.6 Trillion

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, responds to a question during a town hall meeting in Jackson, Mississippi, April 4, 2018.

The plan would lead to significant savings on administration and drug costs, but increased use of health care would lead to a sharp rise in government spending, according to an analysis being released Monday by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia.

Josh Miller-Lewis, Sanders's press secretary, said the additional $32 trillion is already being spent by private insurers, and the Medicare-for-All plan would simply move the money to the government.

"People just have to decide what they're comfortable with", said Charles Blahous, the study's author.

In other words, according to the analysis, Bernie Sanders' health care plan would cost the country about the same in aggregate as the current system, while covering the entire population.

Levitt said Sanders's plan is a good illustration of what Medicare for all could accomplish in theory, but payment levels for providers hasn't really had a full debate yet. Blahous was a senior economic adviser to former President George W. Bush and a public trustee of Social Security and Medicare during the Obama administration.

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Graboyes declined to comment on how Sanders was interpreting the Mercatus Center report but said he has "high respect for senators across the board".

His office has not done a cost analysis, a spokesman said. Blahous corrected it, reducing his estimate by about $3 trillion over 10 years.

That's right. A report that was supposed to discredit the single-payer solution found that, even after the benefits of a Medicare for All program are realized-"additional healthcare demand that arises from eliminating copayments, providing additional categories of benefits, and covering the now uninsured"-the potential cost of the plan would still be less than "potential savings associated with cutting provider payments and achieving lower drug costs".

As Common Dreams reported, Medicare for All is also gaining steam on Capitol Hill, with more than 70 House Democrats joining the newly formed Medicare for All Caucus, which will devote significant energy and resources to studying what it would take to implement a single-payer system in the USA and guarantee healthcare to all Americans as a right. With Republicans in charge of Congress and the White House, it has little chance. But this is more of an accounting thing than anything else: rather than paying premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for health care, people will instead pay a tax that is, on average, a bit less than they now pay into the health care system and, for those on lower incomes, a lot less.

Speaking to The Intercept on Monday, health policy experts and co-founders of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler argued that even the "whopping" $2 trillion in savings projected by the Koch-backed study vastly overstates the costs of implementing Medicare for All and "grossly" understates the savings that would result. He added that Blahous' study does admit that "tens of millions of currently uninsured Americans would have access to healthcare and the United States as a whole would end up spending less than it is expected to right now" under Sanders' proposal. Medicare rates are now about 40 percent less than private insurance, according to the analysis.


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