A new Medicare for All study helped Bernie Sanders’ legislation gain more media attention this week. The study was funded by the Koch brothers who sought to prove that the proposed bill would be a massive financial burden to taxpayers. However, the opposite happened. Instead, the Medicare for All study proved the bill would actually save taxpayers trillions of dollars and even increase worker wages.
What is Medicare for All?
The Medicare for All bill aims to offer every American citizen Medicare coverage within four years. It would start by lowering the age limit for Medicare by 10 years every year until the fourth year when everyone would be covered. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 51 percent of American support universal healthcare while 43 percent oppose it.
The Medicare for All study
Researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University performed a Medicare for All analysis and found it would lead to a $32.6 trillion increase in federal spending over 10 years. The results were published in a paper titled “The Costs of a National Single-Payer Healthcare System,” authored by Charles Blahous. 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.
Is the Medicare for All study accurate?
The study received criticism from health policy experts and single-payer healthcare advocates David U. Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler. Specifically, the study neglects to mention that the current U.S. healthcare structure would spend $49 trillion between 2018 and 2027.
In an interview published by The Intercept, Himmelstein and Woolhandler detail inaccuracies of the Medicare for All study, saying it “fails to even mention the extensive and well-documented evidence on single-payer systems in other nations—which all spend far less per person on health care than we do.”
The Medicare for All study also overestimates how many people would see doctors if universal healthcare were implemented. For example, when Medicare was founded, the number of new people visiting doctors did not increase at all. In fact, fewer wealthy people saw doctors, so healthcare was able to shift to impoverished people who needed healthcare the most but could not previously afford it.
How would the Medicare for All bill save taxpayers money?
- Administrative expenses. By cutting down on administrative costs, which account for 25 percent of healthcare costs in the United States, the bill would save $8.3 trillion over 10 years.
- Drug prices. If the secretary of Health and Human Services were empowered to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, it could save taxpayers $1.7 trillion.
- Premiums and deductibles. Taxes will go up slightly under this plan (hence the initial increase), but premiums and deductibles would be a thing of the past and directly save taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
- Wages. When premiums are not deducted from paychecks, worker net wages will increase.
- Medicaid. The bill would also free up billions of dollars that states spent on Medicaid each year.
Over all, Himmelstein and Woolhandler estimate Blahous’ numbers were off by about $15 trillion.
Even though this plan would end up saving the country and taxpayers trillions of dollars, it won’t pass while Republicans hold control of the House and Senate. Seema Verma, the Trump administration’s Medicare chief, publicly slammed Medicare for All just last week, saying that it would be detrimental to seniors and become “Medicare for None.” Sanders argued back that Medicare works well for seniors, and would work “equally well for all Americans,” even adding benefits like eyeglasses, dental care, hearing aids, and eliminating deductibles and copayments.