Medicare For All proposals are central points for politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders. I recently read an op-ed where the main argument against these plans from self-described Democratic Socialists is that they’re expensive and only work “in a fantasy world where democracy and capitalism, both essential to the American understanding of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ cease to exist in any meaningful way.”
When considering the trillions of dollars Medicare For All would cost, it’s easy to dismiss the plan as the author of the editorial does. However, looking at the price tag for one option does not paint the full financial picture or consider opportunity costs.
On July 30th the Mercatus Center at George Mason University examined the Medicare For All Act that has been sponsored by Senator Sanders. The research was funded by Charles G. Koch and David H. Koch, billionaire Libertarians who want to minimize the role of government and maximize a private economy. The study estimated a Medicare For All program would cost $32.6 trillion dollars over 10 years. This huge number was quickly embraced by conservative politicians, and Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted, “Even doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes wouldn’t cover this cost. It is just absurd.”
However, fixating only on Medicare For All’s cost misses an important point. In the same paper sponsored by the Koch brothers, it notes that total healthcare expenditures would actually decrease $2 trillion under Medicare For All in comparison to our current system over the same 10-year period. The Medicare For All plan also has the added benefit of covering every American while recent projections made by the CBO last fall estimate our current system will leave 31 million people under 65 without health insurance by 2027.
Paying for a less expensive Medicare For All program will still be a challenge, and I’m personally not 100% sold on the promises made by Democratic Socialists that closing tax loopholes and reducing military spending will completely cover costs. However, selective deficit hawkery prevents a clear view of our health care options. Additionally, saying you care about Medicare For All’s costs over other deficits comes across as insincere. According to the Trump administration’s own projections, America will soon be $1 trillion in debt per year for the foreseeable future due to the 2017 tax cuts, the 2018 spending deal, the $12 billion bailout for farmers impacted by the trade war, and an upcoming second round of tax cuts that would make permanent the individual rate cuts in the first tax law at a cost of roughly $600 billion.
Overall, Medicare For All is becoming more popular. According to a study completed by The Kaiser Family Foundation last March, 59% of respondents supported a Medicare For All healthcare system. This idea is not going away, and since it could bring increased fiscal responsibility and foster a healthier society, it deserves serious and fair consideration across the political spectrum.