Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All (M4A) universal health care plan, which proposes all U.S. residents be covered by insurance without copays and deductibles for medical services, has raised various questions surrounding government expenditures and doctor pay.
According to a report by Dr. Charles Blahous at the Mercatus Center, over the first 10 years, Sanders’ M4A would rack up a total cost bill of about $33 trillion in government expenditures. Sanders has claimed the figure to be incorrect as physicians and hospitals could absorb some of the costs with cuts to pay. Bottom line: free healthcare is expensive.
The report also highlights that according to the model Sanders is proposing, federal spending on healthcare will account for almost 13 percent of all economic activity in the U.S. by 2031. The plan proposes to cut about 40 percent of private insurer payments to providers such as hospitals and doctors.
Dean Waldman, former pediatric cardiologist at University of Chicago and single-payer opponent told the Washington Post, “when you’re talking about a 40 percent cut, you’re talking well below the cost of doing business,” he added, “The money has got to come from somewhere – and if it doesn’t, the public will simply not have doctors.”
Sanders reacted to the report and defended the M4A in a statement:
“If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all, and 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, “this grossly misleading and biased report is the Koch brothers response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for all’ program.”
The Mercatus Center receives funding from conservative Koch Industries.
The study found one scenario where national healthcare spending is reduced over a decade by $2 trillion but Blahous deemed the savings unrealistic. According to the Washington Post, supporters of Sanders’s legislation remained fixated on the finding and used it to argue the M4A plan as a national bargain.
The couple trillion in savings would only be plausible with assumptions of dramatic reductions in drug prices and administrative costs.
Currently 12 out of 14 doctors in Congress are Republicans and electing more Democratic physicians in Congress could cause quite the transformation in healthcare policy.
Several polls, including some conducted by The Wall Street Journal and Kaiser Family Foundation, show that healthcare is on most voter’s priority list. Kaiser Health News attribute doctors as effective messengers in their communities. Jonathan Oberlander, professor at University of North Carolina said, “voters listen carefully to what physicians have to say about health policy.”
Democratic Dr. Rob Davidson, emergency physician from western Michigan, decided to join eight other Democratic physicians running for Congress as a novice candidate. He told Kaiser Health News, “I’ve always been very upset … about patients who can’t get health care.”
Read The Washington Posts’ story on the possible M4A outcomes here.
To read more about doctors in Congress, visit Kaiser Health News.