Researchers at George Mason University have put a price tag on the universal healthcare plan proposed by self-proclaimed democratic-socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.: $32.6 trillion over the first 10 years. Even doubling federal individual and corporate income tax receipts would not cover the full cost, according to the study. The senator’s Medicare for All plan would save on administration and drug costs, but increased demand for care would drive up spending.
Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign site offers a much lower number, $1.38 trillion per year, but does not offer a cost analysis. Under Sanders’ quixotic plan all Americans would be eligible for Medicare, with no deductibles or premiums paid to insurance companies.
The Koch brothers–funded Mercatus Center at GMU, which performed the study, is not the first to reach such high estimates. In 2016, the left-leaning Urban Institute estimated Sanders’ plan would increase federal expenditures by nearly the same amount over the same time period—$32.0 trillion over 10 years.
Some, including Sanders himself, claim the report inadvertently supports single-payer healthcare because it suggests overall healthcare expenditures would go down. But that’s because Medicare pays providers about 60 percent of what a typical insurance company would pay. “No surprise, if you cut payments by 40 percent, it saves money,” said Charles Blahous, the study’s author. “It’s the provider cuts that would save money, not the single payer system itself.”
Suddenly, slashing the rates paid to doctors and other providers down to Medicare levels would provoke “at the minimum a political reaction [from providers] saying, in unison, we can’t live solely on the Medicare rates. This doesn’t work for us,” said Joe Antos, a healthcare policy expert with the American Enterprise Institute. —Laura Finch