One repeatedly finds the complaint among establishment media analysts that Bernie Sanders keeps saying the same things over and over, whether it be at debates, rallies, in interviews, or whatever. It seems like they want a candidate to be like a stand-up comedian, coming up with fresh material every so often and get bored by the same material, however important it might be.
It is true that Sanders stays relentlessly on message that health care is a basic human right and that the current levels of wealth inequality are obscene and about his proposals such as Medicare For All, free college, higher minimum wages, massive tax increases on the wealthy and corporations, and so on. Whenever he is asked about things that he thinks are distractions from his core message, he perfunctorily responds to it before immediately pivoting to the issues that he thinks are important. We saw that intense focus again last night which is why the consensus seems to be that he emerged from the debate unscathed by the attacks launched against him by everyone, while Michael Bloomberg seemed to be taken completely off-guard by a similar blitz.
But we are beginning to see the payoff for that relentless focus because the ideas that he has been promoting, once viewed as hopelessly unrealistic, are now part of the mainstream discussion. A major sign of this is an article today in the Washington Post that points to a new paper in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet that supports what Sanders has been saying all along, that there would be huge savings from his Medicare For All proposal, exactly as he describes it, and which his rivals simply refuse to acknowledge because it undercuts the reasons for their opposition to it.
Analysis: A single-payer health care system would save more than 68,000 lives and $450 billion a year, new research shows https://t.co/AGHlS54sIX
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 20, 2020
In his full article, Christopher Ingraham summarizes what The Lancet paper says.
If you watched last night’s Democratic debate in Nevada you might have heard Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cite “a major study [that] came out from Yale epidemiologist[s] in Lancet, one of the leading medical publications in the world” in support of his Medicare-for-all plan. He was talking about this study, which was just published last week.
All told, the study concludes, a single-payer system akin to Sanders’s plan would slash the nation’s health-care expenditures by 13 percent, or more than $450 billion, each year. Not only that, “ensuring health-care access for all Americans would save more than 68,000 lives.”
In their breakdown of the numbers, researchers applied the existing Medicare fee structure across the entire health-care system and found it would save about $100 billion annually. Keep in mind that this basically represents less money going to doctors and hospitals, a major sticking point for medical groups that oppose Medicare-for-all. But those declines would be more than offset by several hundred billions in savings from reduced administrative and billing costs, Galvani and her colleagues estimate. The lack of patient billing under a Medicare-for-all system would also eliminate the roughly $35 billion a year that hospitals now pay to chase down unpaid bills.
The authors estimate an additional $219 billion in savings from reduced “administrative overhead” that the current decentralized system creates, including “the elimination of redundant corporate functions and the truncation of the top-heavy salary architecture of health insurance corporations.” For instance, the plan would replace dozens of health insurance executives, many of whom make well over $20 million a year, with one administrator paid the same salary as the current Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Finally, letting the national Medicare system negotiate pharmaceutical prices would save about $180 billion, according to the analysis.
Add it all up and here’s what you get: a new system that would cost about $3 trillion a year, instead of the $3.5 trillion that is being spent now.
Galvani and her colleagues estimate that to fully fund Medicare-for-all, the federal government would have to bring in an additional $773 billion a year relative to current revenue levels. They estimate this could be paid for, in part, by a 10 percent payroll tax that would bring in $436 billion annually. Given that current employer contributions to health care work out to about 12 percent of payrolls, this would still be about $100 billion less than what employers currently pay.
The remaining funding could be paid via a 5 percent tax on household income, yielding $375 billion a year. Again, with the elimination of employee contributions to existing health insurance premiums, the average household could expect to save well over $2,000 a year — and have no co-pays or deductibles to worry about.
Lack of a universal health-care system means that regular medical care is unaffordable for many Americans: fully one quarter of us have put off needed care because of cost. More than 8 million Americans have started a crowdfunding campaign to pay for medical care, with approximately 1 in 5 Americans contributing to somebody else’s medical crowdfunding campaign. Ninety percent of those campaigns will fail to raise the necessary funds.
By addressing these and other problems, Galvani and her colleagues estimate that regardless of cost, Medicare-for-all would save about 69,000 lives each year. They end their paper by calling on the medical community to answer “the moral imperative to provide health care as a human right, not dependent on employment or affluence.”
It is very significant that an establishment paper like the Washington Post, no friend of Sanders, published this piece because the political and media establishment tends to ignore any inconvenient truths that they themselves do not generate, even if they appear in reputable journals. Being able to point to this article makes it harder for the critics of his plan, which includes pretty much all his rivals for the nomination, plus the Democratic party, plus the entire political-media establishment and the health care industry, to ignore these facts.
Sanders has been saying the same things for nearly 30 years and they are finally beginning to sink into the public consciousness. That demonstrates the power of consistency, persistence, and the refusal to be distracted.