Rich Lowry recently wrote to raise fears and doubts about “Medicare for All,” conveniently failing to complete the thought. He cites a cost of this Democratic proposal of $30 trillion over 10 years as the central fear. While he does not offer any justification for his figure, he also omits to calculate the cost for doing nothing and continuing the current system.
Should the Republicans block further progress with expanding support for medical care, the cost can be estimated based on the fact that for the last 50 years, national medical costs (spread over both the public and private sector) have tightly followed a fraction of the Gross Domestic Product. Since 2008 it is near 18 percent. With December 2018 GDP of $20.65 trillion, using a GDP growth rate of 3.4 percent as it was in December, the 10-year cost calculates to $48.6 trillion. Further, during the years presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush were in office, the medical cost ratio to GDP tended to inch up at 0.4 percent a year. It effectively stayed flat during the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. One would expect the current trend to follow the ratio creep of those three Republican presidents. Adding that into the calculation pushes the Republican costs to $50.4 trillion over 10 years.
The different ranges from $14 trillion to $20 trillion of saving for adopting a “Medicare for All,” which is a lot of cost to the nation for doing nothing to improve medical care. That amount of money potentially could pay off the national debt if the savings were devoted to debt-reduction.
Raymond F. Pierce
retired university faculty member