By Brett LoGiurato
Business Insider, Sept. 15, 2015
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is pushing back on the eye-popping estimated price tag of his progressive wish list of proposals he has offered on the campaign trail.
The Wall Street Journal reported in a front-page story on Tuesday that Sanders’ proposals would total around $18 trillion over 10 years, which the publication said would amount to the “largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history.”
That would include an estimated $15 trillion over a decade for a revamping of the federal healthcare system to a government-run, “Medicare for all” single-payer approach.
In an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday, Sanders disputed The Journal’s total. He argued that the paper did not take into account the spending reductions that would come with the enactment of a single-payer-type healthcare plan.
“That is not the reality. We will be responding to The Wall Street Journal on that,” Sanders told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell of the overall estimate.
“I think most of the expense that they put in there, the expenditures have to do with the single-payer healthcare system,” he continued. “They significantly exaggerated the cost of that, and they forgot to tell the American people in that article that that means eliminating the costs that you incur with private health insurance.”
Sanders, right now the main Democratic challenger to presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, has not released a detailed healthcare plan as of yet. The Journal relied on an analysis of similar legislation proposed by Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) and sponsored by 44 other House Democrats.
The analysis, which was conducted by University of Massachusetts at Amherst economist Gerald Friedman, would “require $15 trillion in federal spending over 10 years, on top of existing federal health spending,” according to The Journal.
But the analysis has also been cited favorably by progressive advocates of a single-payer healthcare system, who note that Conyers’ bill would purportedly save nearly $600 billion annually by eliminating administrative waste in the private-insurance industry and cutting prices of pharmaceutical medicine.
“In 2014, the savings would be enough to cover all 44 million uninsured and upgrade benefits for everyone else. No other plan can achieve this magnitude of savings on health care,” Friedman wrote in his 2013 analysis.
The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman backed up Sanders on some of his criticism. As Waldman pointed out, the US currently spends about $3 trillion a year — and will spend close to $42 trillion over the next decade — on healthcare. He argued that Sanders’ proposal wouldn’t add on to that total, but rather reallocate the way the US spends money on healthcare.
“By the logic of the scary $18 trillion number, you could take a candidate who has proposed nothing on health care, and say, ‘So-and-so proposes spending $42 trillion on health care!’ It would be accurate, but not particularly informative,” Waldman wrote.