Sanders' Medicare Plan Could Cost $32.6 Trillion

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Bernie Sanders' single-payer plan would add trillions to government books, by placing all Americans on one government health insurer.

A new report from the libertarian Mercatus Center drew attention as it showed Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All plan would cost the federal government an additional $32.6 trillion over 10 years. The plan builds on existing Medicare legislation, covering all USA residents and eliminating copays and deductibles for medical expenses. The insurance industry would be relegated to a minor role.

That's trillion with a T. It would deliver significant savings on administration and drug costs, but increased demand for care would drive up spending, the analysis found. All US residents would be covered with no copays or deductibles for medical services.

After a study by the Koch Brothers-funded Mercatus Center that was clearly designed as a deceptive attack on Medicare for All inadvertently bolstered the economic case for single-payer-which is rapidly growing in popularity among the public and US lawmakers-Sen.

"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.

The Mercatus Centre at George Mason University published a study earlier this week with projections on Mr Sanders' single-payer health care programme that guarantees health care coverage to all Americans. "Taking those savings into account would lower Blahous's estimate from $32.6 trillion to $24.3 trillion".

"I suspect that that is not what the Koch brothers meant to do, but that is what is in the study", Sanders said of the projected savings.

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Also called "single payer" over the years, "Medicare for all" reflects a longtime wish among liberals for a government-run system that covers all Americans.

Sanders's plan aims to provide health insurance for everyone in the country, and to virtually eliminate the uninsured. Looking ahead to the 2020 election, Democrats are debating whether single-payer should be a "litmus test" for national candidates.

According to an analysis by David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler viewed by The Intercept's Ryan Grim and Zaid Jilani, the Mercatus Center's "report undercounts administrative savings by more than $8.3 trillion over 10 years". That number would drop to $7.35 trillion if Sanders' plan were implemented, the study found.

Kenneth Thorpe, a health policy professor at Emory University in Atlanta, wrote one of the earlier studies and says the Mercatus analysis reinforces them. 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. At the same time, the model also assumes that 30 million more people would get access to healthcare, and many people would get more robust services.

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.

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

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. Doubling federal individual and corporate income tax receipts would not cover the full cost, the study said.