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Statistics will say pretty much anything you want if you tickle the data in just the right spot. That’s why it is always important to check the source of a study, and why it can be doubly interesting when an institution produces a report that seems to contradict their very own objectives and worldview.
The Mercatus Center calls the George Mason campus home but does not receive any university or public funding. The lion’s share of their budget comes from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, which is also a major contributor to the research of climate change skeptics, and the Koch brothers have put their significant combined resources behind championing free-enterprise and endeavors such as killing public transportation projects.
The center recently produced a study analyzing a “Medicare for All” proposal from Sen. Bernie Sanders that would expand the system for the elderly and disabled to all U.S. residents. Based on the Sanders team’s projections, the researchers found “Medicare for All” would result in a total of $2 trillion less in overall health care expenditures between 2022 and 2031 compared to current spending, and Democrats pounced on the good news.
But the lead author, Charles Blahous, told the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” that the Dems are misinterpreting his findings. He argues that Sanders’ savings projections, derived from the increased bargaining power of a single-payer Department of Health and Human Services, are far too optimistic, but he wanted to analyze the plan as it is currently framed.
The Washington Post even gave Democrats touting the $2 trillion figure three Pinocchios in their fact check. Blahous claims he was generous to accept Sanders’ claims of savings, and predicts a large increase in care because everyone will have access. However, other health policy analysts, say his study actually shortchanged the savings in other ways.
First of all, individuals and families would no longer bear the financial burden for their health care, and will receive more in net income. States too would benefit, no longer running costly Medicaid programs. The Mercatus report also overestimates the increase in use of care, ignores documented savings of single-payer plans in other countries and downplays reductions in prescription drug prices, according to David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, two researchers who evaluated the Mercatus study and say the real cost estimate of “Medicare for All” is $22.6 trillion, as opposed to Blahous’s prediction of $32.6 trillion.
Himmelstein and Woolhandler found “Medicare for All,” while shifting the cost to the government (i.e. taxpayers, or, as Sanders proposes, wealthy taxpayers), would cover more people and increase the quality of coverage, all at a price close to the current system that leaves millions uninsured.