The United States spends more on healthcare than any other nation worldwide, yet nearly 40 million Americans do not have health insurance of any sort. Although Affordable Care Act coverage has helped millions gain coverage, millions still go bankrupt due to medical expenses and lack of long-term care plans. Democrats are pushing for universal health care as part of single payer systems like Medicare for All as an approach that addresses this problem – however these proposals have been met with fierce resistance by Republicans who view such proposals as costly threats to individual choice. How much would such a system cost?
Answers will depend on the structure of each program; however, most proposals call for increasing taxes on individuals and businesses in order to finance a universal system. One such proposal entails increasing payroll taxes with higher-income citizens paying more while wealth or sales taxes might also be implemented as ways of funding universal healthcare systems.
However, even these options could increase federal budget and deficit numbers. Estimations for a universal healthcare system based on single-payer models range between $32 trillion to $41.1 trillion over 10 years; to get a clearer idea of these costs we consulted Linda Blumberg of Urban Institute Fellow status who ran some numbers and estimated that Senator Sanders’ plan would cost approximately $34 trillion over that same time frame.
Her estimate falls close to what was proposed by Sanders and roughly matches what is suggested by the left-wing think tank Center for American Progress, although its accuracy depends on how much premiums and taxes the government raises in response.
Other estimates use various assumptions and methodologies to arrive at similar estimates: A universal health care system will cost between $30 trillion and $40 trillion over 10 years, taking into account both implementation costs of single payer health care as well as potential savings from eliminating private insurers.
However, calculations show that the actual costs associated with reaching universal health care would be considerably less than these figures suggest. To gain clarity into why, we consulted independent experts who reviewed all numbers and calculations involved in these analyses.
These experts point out that estimates of the costs associated with universal health care systems tend to be exaggerated because they fail to take into account how establishing one would reduce overall medical spending; by eliminating private insurers and switching over to single payer, administrative costs for healthcare could decrease, ultimately leading to cost reduction in overall expenses for this system.