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What the "Medicare for All" Studies Really Show

Long-time HCFA-WA supporter and recently retired RN Cris Currie breaks down the recent studies purporting to contradict the projected benefits and savings from a "Medicare for All" healthcare system. 

There really is no doubt from all of the studies that have been done over the last 20 years that Medicare for All (M4A) will save tremendous amounts of money. So what’s up with the three relatively recent studies that appear to contradict these findings?

The 2018 Mercatus study is the easiest to refute, because buried in Charles Blahous’s Table 2 is his key finding that M4A will actually save over $2 trillion in ten years. Of course, you have to do your own arithmetic to discover this, and he didn’t bother to explain how much money we expect to be spending in ten years on our current course compared to the projected $32 trillion cost of M4A. It was an extremely careful obfuscation of his own data to advance the political agenda of the libertarian Koch family who largely funded it. (Source)

Then there is Kenneth Thorpe’s 2016 report from Emory University. In this study, Thorpe completely contradicted his earlier findings showing how M4A would substantially cut costs, yet the facts have not changed. In 2016, he grossly underestimated the administrative cost savings by using Vermont’s modified single-payer proposal instead of the actual experiences in other countries such as Canada and Scotland. He also assumed huge increases in utilization not seen in other countries due to capacity constraints. He completely ignored the trillions of dollars in cost savings to federal, state and local governments stemming from their relief from the outrageous costs of private coverage for public employees. He also ignored the proposed termination of huge tax subsidies currently enjoyed by private insurance companies, and he grossly underestimated the cost savings on prescription drugs that every other government-administered system has gained.

Finally, there is the 2016 study from the otherwise highly reputable Urban Institute. Why did they project that M4A would break the bank? Citing Thorpe’s study, they committed many of the same errors, plus they completely ignored the huge savings to doctors and hospitals from the super streamlined billing system. The UI authors later admitted that they were assuming that major health insurance companies would continue to play an administrative role, which no M4A proposal has ever suggested. (Source)

Several theories have been advanced as to why these researchers might have done such misleading work and agree to its political use. Unfortunately, not all researchers are able to prevent their own biases or those of their bosses and funding sources from contaminating their findings. This, of course, only adds to the confusion between facts and “alternative” facts.

The bottom line, as Uwe Reinhardt said, is that universal healthcare is not a matter of economics…it’s a matter of soul.

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