Sanders' Medicare Plan Could Cost $32.6 Trillion

Jacob Lew Charles Blahous Thomas E. Perez

Jacob Lew Charles Blahous Thomas E. Perez

Bernie Sander's proposed single-payer national healthcare program is projected to cost the federal government $32.6 trillion over the next 10 years, requiring historic tax increases.

The study found US health care spending under Sanders' plan would drop over time - about $300 billion lower in 2031.

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".

Sanders responded to the study by speaking out against the Mercatus Center's conservative board members, the Koch brothers from Koch Industries. He also said that long-term pricing projections are inherently volatile and that he made generous assumptions about Sanders' cost savings.

"Health care costs, even for those who have health insurance, are endangering tens of millions of people every day in this country", said National Nurses Union co-president Jean Ross, RN. In fact, a study of Sanders' 2016 plan by the left-leaning Urban Institute found that it would also cost the federal government $32 trillion over a decade. But Sanders is right that a new study concludes his plan would reduce overall spending on health care in America. Blahous says the report is his own work, not the Koch brothers'.

While House Speaker Ryan may seem keen to believe Blahous' paper, critics of the latter's study note that the current American health care system has cost, as of 2016, $3.3 trillion on an annual basis. Even if Democrats manage to take control of both the House and Senate, a narrow majority with a Republican in the White House would make it hard to enact this kind of legislation.

A Pew Research study published past year found a growing support in Americans, driven by Democrats, for single-payer health coverage. And for Business Insider, Bob Bryan wrote that "while the price tag for the federal government would increase, the total cost of healthcare would go down while also providing healthcare to more than 30 million uninsured Americans". Those studies estimated increases in federal spending over 10 years that ranged from $24.7 trillion to $34.7 trillion.

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Kenneth Thorpe, a health policy professor at Emory University and a senior health policy adviser in the Clinton administration, added to the discussion, stating that people will end up paying more in taxes than they would save on premiums under the new plan.

"You can save money and cover everyone, but it would be a big shift from private payers to the public, and a $32 trillion increase in taxes is going to be scary", Levitt said, adding that Medicare for all supporters have a tough task ahead of them.

Robert Graboyes, a senior research fellow and health care scholar at the center who read Blahous's report through its production, said the report doesn't "predict" $2 trillion in savings. It also banks on saving trillions by streamlining administration.

The Mercatus study takes issue with a key cost-saving feature of the plan: that hospitals and doctors would accept payment based on lower Medicare rates for all their patients.

But other provisions would tend to drive up spending, including coverage for almost 30 million uninsured people, no deductibles or copays, and improved benefits, including dental, vision, and hearing. Medicare rates are now about 40 percent less than private insurance, according to the analysis.

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