The Disastrous Cost of Medicare for All

Universal health care is the holy grail of big-government liberals, but studies consistently show a staggering price tag if implemented.

Radical leftist politicians, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (D—VT), regularly laud the idea of single-payer healthcare, or “Medicare For All.” But a new report by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University finds that the cost of such a federal program would be astronomical.

That study shows that implementing Medicare For All nationally would cost more than $32 trillion over the first 10 years. The plan would replace all private health insurance that Americans currently receive, and all state level health care spending, with federal control and distribution.

With more than $21 trillion already on the national credit card, the amount of money required to support a single-payer system could not be generated even if current tax revenues were doubled.

“Doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes going forward would be insufficient to fully finance the plan, even under the assumption that provider payment rates are reduced by over 40 percent,” said study author Charles Blahous.

Before he was a Vermont senator, Sanders, back in 1987, apparently understood the cost-prohibitive nature of government-run health programs, saying if Medicaid was expanded to everyone it would “bankrupt the nation.”

State-level experiments in single-payer health care have had predictably disastrous results. In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin scrapped a single-payer state plan projected to increase taxes 160 percent, saying at a press conference, “the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families, and the state’s economy.” Proponents couldn’t convince doctors and hospitals to take pay cuts, nor workers to accept tax hikes.

In California, where Democrats control virtually every arm of government, the same thing occurred. After tabling a single-payer bill in the state legislature, Speaker of the California Assembly Anthony Rendon wrote in a statement that the bill was incomplete and failed to address “financing, delivery of care, cost controls, or needed action by the Trump administration.” In other words, doubling the state’s budget from $200 Billion to $400 billion was a bridge too far.

The $24 billion projected cost of a Maryland single-payer proposal is a central issue in that state’s governor’s race. Democratic challenger Ben Jealous is running on support for the plan, while incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesman said after a cost study was released, “This analysis shows just how dangerously irresponsible, unaffordable and unworkable Ben Jealous’ plan would be for our citizens and our economy.”

Finally, North Carolina Democratic State Rep. Verla Insko killed her own single-payer bill after an assessment from the state estimated the cost of single-payer at $70 billion.

Much has been written on the dysfunction in the American health care system, and it’s true that the status quo implies unsustainable costs as indicated by a “fiscal gap” of $222 trillion in the long-term budget. While an overhaul is needed, the debate about who pays for it must include a transparent discussion of costs.

There’s a reason public support for single-payer drops off when respondents are shown the price tag. Coupled with reports of reduced access to and quality of care, waiting lists in places like Britain and Canada where single-payer is reality, and even the death of Charlie Gard, Americans have all the evidence necessary to reject government-run medical care.

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Salvador Ayala

Sal is the Budget & Policy Analyst for Empower Texans. He has been a committed proponent of American founding principles since 2007, shortly after receiving his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. Before joining Empower Texans, he served as legislative director for Rep. Matt Rinaldi in the Texas house and was a delegate to the 2012 RNC. In his leisure, Sal enjoys live music, digital photography, guitar, bicycling, trivia, and documentary films.

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