Study: Bernie Sanders’ Health Care Bill Would Cost $32 Trillion

After calculating the costs of Bernie Sanders’ health care bill, the George Mason University Mercatus Center published the results of a study Monday, which found that even under democratic socialism, there sure is no such thing as a free lunch.

According to conservative estimates, the “Medicare for All” bill sponsored by independent socialist Senator Bernie Sanders “would add approximately $32.6 trillion to federal budget commitments during the first 10 years of its implementation (2022–2031).”

To give a better sense of perspective, the report on the Mercatus Center’s website points out: “This projected increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7 percent of GDP in 2022. This amount would rise to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP in 2031 and continue to rise thereafter. ”

As far as the impact on GDP goes, this would be no soft form of socialism, but would essentially amount to an entire, radical restructuring of the American economy.

The Mercatus Center says its estimates are conservative, because they grant the bill’s own premises about its effects on health care prices: “These estimates are conservative because they assume the legislation achieves its sponsors’ goals of dramatically reducing payments to health providers, in addition to substantially reducing drug prices and administrative costs.”

But this is a $32 trillion dollar experiment for which there is no precedent, and it is impossible to be sure that it would achieve its goals. Government programs notoriously take longer and cost more than projected, and have many unintended consequences.

With something as complex as the trillion dollar American medical industry, and so sudden and radical a realignment of incentives, it is also unrealistic to believe anyone could be sure what effects Bernie Sanders’ health care bill could have on important metrics like the quality and availability of care, customer satisfaction, and even the pace of medical innovation.

What would the “Medicare for All” plan do to federal income taxes?

The Mercatus study says:

“A doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan. [emphasis mine]”

In response to the study, Bernie Sanders called the report grossly misleading and biased, and seemed to impugn its validity because the research center which conducted it receives donations from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation:

“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. This grossly misleading and biased report is the Koch brothers response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for all’ program.”

A Sanders spokesman said his office has not done a cost analysis.