Congressional Budget Office: Medicare for All Would Reduce Healthcare Costs

December 16, 2020

On December 10, the Congressional Budget Office released a new estimate of the cost of Medicare for All, finding that overall health costs would decline between $42 and $743 billion per year.

Researcher Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project, who points out that this study “is more exhaustive than any other recent study on the subject,” posted a detailed analysis of the CBO’s research the next day. Bruenig concluded:

Overall, the study confirms what serious Medicare for All analysts have known for some time now. It is possible to provide high-quality public health insurance to every person in the country while also saving money overall on health spending. The barriers to the policy are not technical deficiencies or costs, but rather political opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats who would rather spend more money to provide less health care.

The CBO found that administrative costs under Medicare for All would not only be vastly lower than the costs of our current chaotic “system” of private insurance, they would be even lower than Medicare’s current administrative costs of two percent, in large part because it would eliminate the need for healthcare providers to spend time and effort determining patients’ eligibility for care.

This study arrives at a moment when, as public health expert Dr. James G. Kahn pointed out on a recent episode of Medicare for All Explained podcast, private health insurance companies have seen their profits double, or more, during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, CBO director Phill Swagel chose to spin the study on the CBO’s website using a common insurance-industry scare tactic, trying to scare people about the increase in federal expenditures (which would be easily paid for by converting the massive sums currently spent on premiums by employers into a payroll tax).

“This is a typical pro-privatization talking point,” said UE General President Carl Rosen, “which at its core is essentially saying they'd rather overpay and deal with inefficiencies and inequalities in order to have something provided at private profit, instead of having something be provided as a public service.”