Remember that report from last summer by a Charles and David Koch-financed libertarian think tank claiming that Medicare-for-all will cost American taxpayers $32.6 trillion over 10 years?
The report from the Mercatus Center would be the “kiss of death” for single-payer health care in this country, the Kochs and the health establishment predicted. Obviously the country can’t afford that kind of price tag. While many questioned the report’s conclusions from the get-go, many Republican congressional candidates used the $32.6 trillion figure to ridicule single-payer advocates. In fact, some still do so in speeches they give and op-eds they write.
The claim that the U.S. couldn’t afford such a system should have been the first clue that there was something wrong with the math. Virtually every major country on earth guarantees health care to all and actually achieves better health care outcomes — and is able to pay the bills.
But, for the first time since the days when Harry Truman was president, support for Medicare-for-all didn’t suddenly disappear. It was as if a significant number of taxpayers realized the naysayers have been pulling their legs for decades.
No, as politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren kept up the single-payer drumbeat, younger Americans began taking a close look at health care. Although we pay roughly 50 percent more on health care than any other country, we aren’t getting 50 percent better care. Our prices at the pharmacy are out of control, costing Americans much more for drugs and co-pays than most every other country.
Our infant mortality is higher, our life expectancy lower. Because so many citizens go without health care, even counting those covered by Obamacare, many millions don’t see doctors or visit a clinic when they’re sick. Because mammograms are missed, people die. A person with undiagnosed hypertension is in peril. A child with a stomachache may wind up with a ruptured appendix.
In just the past few years, public opinion about single-payer health care has been rapidly changing. Polls show that more Americans than ever see the need for and understand Medicare.
When Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders first introduced a bill to enact Medicare-for-all in 2013, he had just one Senate sponsor — himself. When the bill was reintroduced in September 2017, he had 121 co-sponsors in the House and six in the Senate, including Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin. It was no longer being portrayed as socialism or even communism, but was being seen by many as a common-sense and fair system that would make health care a right for American citizens, not a privilege available only for the wealthy.
That $32.6 trillion cost every 10 years? Yes, that’s how much it would cost in actual outlays.
But you weren’t told by the Mercatus Center or even by several news stories about the report that the cost over 10 more years under America’s current system would actually cost more — $2 trillion more.