Single-Payer Health Care Would Cost the U.S. Government $34 Trillion, Says Left-Leaning Think Tank

A report released Wednesday detailed research suggesting that single-payer health care reforms, also known as "Medicare for all," would cost the United States government about $32 trillion over 10 years.

The research, conducted by Commonwealth Fund and the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank based in D.C., analyzed eight different health care reforms, including two single-payer reforms, and examined what their impacts would be on nationwide health insurance coverage and spending.

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a single-issue advocacy organization made up of more than 20,000 physicians, health professionals and medical students, defines the single-payer health system as one in which the government controls how health care will be financed, but keeps the delivery of that care mostly in private hands.

"Under a single-payer system, all residents of the U.S. would be covered for all medically necessary services," the PNHP website reads. "[This would include] doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs."

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Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) interact during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Otterbein University on October 15, 2019 in Westerville, Ohio. Sanders has expressed support for single-payer health care reform. Win McNamee/Getty

Although the study did not analyze any of the exact proposals put forth by any 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, The Hill reported that the one that would cost $32 trillion is similar to that put forth by Senator Bernie Sanders and backed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, both Democrats.

According to the study, it is indeed possible to provide near-universal coverage without a full-scale single-payer health care plan. The Hill reported that a plan similar to those proposed by former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, which would provide a government-run option along with government subsidies to help people buy insurance, would cost the government only $1.3 trillion over 10 years. The plan would reduce the number of insured people in the U.S. from 32.2 million to 6.6 million.

The study comes only a day after Slate reported that single-payer health reforms are becoming increasingly less popular among Americans. An article published yesterday in Slate cited the results of three recent polls conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, NBC/The Wall Street Journal and Fox News. All three reported that support for Medicare for all had fallen. However, a plurality of Democrats still supported the reform and a majority of Republicans opposed it.