'Medicare for all' projected to cost $32.6 trillion

Bernie Sander’s ‘Medicare For All’ Would Cost $32.6 Trillion, Study Projects

Bernie Sander’s ‘Medicare For All’ Would Cost $32.6 Trillion, Study Projects

A new study that puts an astronomical price tag on a Medicare-for-all proposal has prompted mockery from conservatives and defensive cries from liberals.

In the report, Charles Blahous attempts to roughly score Bernie Sanders's most recent Medicare-for-All bill and reaches the somewhat surprising (for Mercatus) conclusion that, if the bill were enacted, the new costs it creates would be more than offset by the new savings it generates through administrative efficiencies and reductions in unit prices. It concludes the Sanders Medicare-for-All plan would increase federal budget commitments by about $32 trillion over its first 10 years of implementation.

Sanders' plan builds on Medicare, the popular insurance program for seniors. In the first year, the federal government would drop the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55 - a proposal also backed by many centrist Senate Democrats - as well as enrolling everyone now on Medicare and everyone younger than 18.

That means overall healthcare spending would decline, but the government's share of that figure would go up, something small-government Republicans find unsettling.

"I've made all the favorable assumptions with respect to the author's intent", Blahous said in an interview. Total national health spending would be $2 trillion lower between 2022 and 2031 under the Medicare for All plan, according to the report.

But the cost for the federal government tells only part of the story. Federal health expenditures refer to health spending from the federal government in particular. We get to insure every single person in the country, virtually eliminate cost-sharing, and save everyone from the hell of constantly changing health insurance all while saving money.

"It's a surprisingly positive view of Medicare for All from a very conservative research institute", Larry Levitt, a health-care expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said of the Mercatus report. Meanwhile, the model also assumes that 30 million more people would get access to healthcare, and many people would get more robust services. His 2016 presidential campaign website cites an estimated price tag of $1.38 trillion a year for an earlier version of the plan, but other studies have projected much higher costs.

"If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all, achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States cannot do the same", Sanders said. 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.

But the Mercatus report also found that the national health expenditure - the total amount spent on healthcare in the U.S. by the federal government, states, businesses, and individuals - would come in below current projections under Sanders' plan.

"The general ballpark of numbers seem the same, irrespective of where it comes from", said Blahous. This is because the demand for service would climb as payments to providers are cut. He assumes administrative costs will only drop from 13 percent to 6 percent for those now privately insured. With Republicans in charge of Congress and the White House, it has little chance. "If we were in a full-fledged debate over Medicare for all, lobbying by drug companies, doctors and hospitals would be enormous".

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