Medicare for all would be an unmitigated disaster

“Medicare for all,” they say.

And by “they” I mean virtually every potential Democratic contender for president in 2020, as well as a disturbingly high number of liberals in Congress, and candidates seeking to be the next wave of elected officials, like socialist “it girl” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Well, last week the Mercatus Center at George Mason University released a new study on the cost of Medicare for all.

Activists rally in Presque Isle in April for Medicare for All. Contributed photo by Shelly Mountain.

The result? An almost inconceivable $32.6 trillion over 10 years.

The increase in federal health care spending would end up being roughly 10.7 percent of GDP by 2022, which would then rise to 12.7 percent in 2031, and then keep rising after that.

This is an amount that is so expensive that if we doubled all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections, it would still not cover the cost of the plan.

And to make matters worse, the cost analysis is — according to Mercatus — likely on the conservative side, and would likely cost a great deal more.

Interestingly, you would have expected Bernie Sanders and his fellow socialist provocateurs to run away from this report screaming, given that it exposes their fetishized policy goal as the quixotic, reckless idea that it is.

Nope. Not only did Sanders not run away from the report, he embraced it, and even thanked Mercatus for it.

Why? Because, according to Sanders, the report said that it would save the American people $2 trillion over that same 10-year period.

Granted, celebrating that “savings” makes about as much sense as being excited that you found a $10 bill in the driveway of the house that is about to be repossessed by the bank, but more power to him for seeing the silver lining, I suppose.

All jokes aside, Sanders is, of course, cherry picking data from the report to use as a politically convenient talking point, so that he can continue to advocate for his socialistic dream, while ignoring the important context of that report.

So where does this supposed $2 trillion in savings that Sanders is talking about come from?

Charles Blahous, the author of the report, addressed the issues in a recent piece for the Wall Street Journal.

“Some have seized on a scenario in my estimates showing a slight decline in projected total public and private health expenditures under Medicare for All,” he began. “But that decline, relative to current projections, relies on an assumption that Medicare for All would immediately and dramatically cut provider payment rates by roughly 40 percent. Without such cuts, Medicare for All would drive national health costs further upward, and the federal price tag would be $38 trillion during its first 10 years.”

What is he talking about? Well, right now, there are a variety of reimbursement rates that are paid to providers. Medicare pays a certain amount, while private insurers pay significantly more; 40 percent more, according to the Blahous.

The supposed “cost savings” come from destroying the private insurance market and putting everyone on Medicare, with the lower Medicare reimbursement rate.

Obviously this would have a major impact — and a very negative one — on the health care market. With major increases in demand for health care services, America would need a radical increase in the supply of health care providers to meet that demand, unless we wanted to be crippled by waiting lists and substandard, superficial care.

Reducing reimbursement payments to levels that are lower than providers’ current costs of even providing care would have exactly the opposite effect.

Which brings us to the key point — the socialists who are pushing this idea know that it could never work without significantly increasing those reimbursements, which would not only wipe out the phony “savings” that were assumed in the Mercatus report, but would actually lead to more money spent.

It is bewildering to listen to the self deception of those who push this idea.

We can’t know how it would play out, but there is no logical scenario in which it would be a positive development for this country.

Again, $36 trillion in spending over 10 years. Decreased availability of existing health services to deal with the exploding, government-fueled demand. Providers either going out of business, or dramatically curtailing the types and quality of their offerings. Waiting longer to see your doctor. Spending less time with your doctor.

And the hyperinflation of health care costs that will be associated with massive government involvement, like we have already seen in industry after industry that the government has entangled itself in? A terrifying concept.

Look, let’s just be real here. Medicare for all doesn’t save money, it costs money. And in the end, it would cost us all a lot more than just the money.


Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.