Bernie Sanders mocks Koch brothers after 'grossly misleading' Medicare for All study

Ben Davidson
August 3, 2018

The author behind the paper, Charles Blahous, predicts that Sanders' health care strategy will end up costing Americans nearly $33 trillion.

Responding to the study, Sanders took aim at the Mercatus Center, which receives funding from the conservative Koch brothers.

Two of America's richest men, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are known for supporting economically conservative causes. From there, he adds the costs associated with higher utilization of medical services and then subtracts the savings from lower administrative costs, lower reimbursements for medical services, and lower drug prices. In fact, a study of Sanders' 2016 plan by the left-leaning Urban Institute found that it would also cost the federal government $32 trillion over a decade.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders refused to accept a recent study that showed his "medicare for all" program would cost U.S. taxpayers over $32 trillion; releasing a new video that claims universal healthcare would actually save $2 trillion over ten years.

At first glance, it is unusual that the Mercatus Center, which is libertarian in its orientation and heavily funded by the libertarian Koch family, would publish a report this positive about Medicare for All.

"$32.6 trillion dollars. That's how much Washington Democrats' single-payer healthcare proposal would cost over 10 years", House Speaker Paul Ryan tweeted. Its findings are similar to those of several independent studies of Sanders' 2016 plan. Blahous says the report is his own work, not the Koch brothers'.

"Health care costs, even for those who have health insurance, are endangering tens of millions of people every day in this country", said National Nurses Union co-president Jean Ross, RN.

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Also called "single payer" over the years, "Medicare for all" reflects a longtime wish among liberals for a government-run system that covers all Americans.

As Senator Sanders says: "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". Single-payer systems in many European countries demonstrate that they can reduce overall national health spending, but that does not mean that a Democratic administration could implement one without incurring an vast political backlash, said Harold Pollack, a health-care expert at the University of Chicago. Those studies found increases in federal spending over 10 years that ranged from $24.7 trillion to $34.7 trillion.

"It's showing that if you are going to go in this direction, it's going to cost the federal government $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion a year in terms of spending", Thorpe said.

Robert Graboyes, a senior research fellow and health care scholar at the center who read Blahous's report through its production, said the report doesn't "predict" $2 trillion in savings.

"You can save money and cover everyone, but it would be a big shift from private payers to the public, and a $32 trillion increase in taxes is going to be scary", Levitt said, adding that Medicare for all supporters have a tough task ahead of them. Savings from streamlined administration would be even greater, almost $1.6 trillion.

The Mercatus study also takes issue with a key cost-saving feature of the plan - that hospitals and doctors will accept payment based on lower Medicare rates for all their patients.

"Doubling all now projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan", the study read.

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