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How Much Would Universal Health Care Cost?

Cost has been at the core of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All plan debate. His campaign has attempted to compare its estimate with that of last year’s federal budget – estimated at an eye-popping $4.1 trillion–but this comparison can be misleading.

An accurate way of gauging the potential cost of Bernie Sanders’ plan is to study its 10-year spending projections. Researchers at the Urban Institute used this method in arriving at its estimate of $34 trillion, significantly less than Sanders’ camp’s estimate of $40 trillion.

Linda Blumberg, a fellow at Urban’s Health Policy Center who spearheaded this research effort, explained it was crucial for individuals to comprehend what this figure represented – which wasn’t simply “a few trillion dollars”. Instead, it represents 75% of projected expenditures over 10 years as projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

Furthermore, it would represent one of the greatest increases to ever hit our federal budget. Furthermore, it should be noted that health spending doesn’t just represent what governments spend – individuals and families pay premiums, copays and deductibles too.

Most Americans, both those enrolled in employer plans and those without health coverage, struggle to cover health costs. According to one poll, 56 percent of people earning under 200 percent of poverty ($29,160 for individuals and $60,000 for families of four) reported spending at least one quarter of their monthly budget on health care costs – more than they spent on housing, food or clothing combined.

A universal healthcare system funded through taxes would significantly ease these burdens on American families. According to The Hamilton Project’s model, while this may incur significant initial costs, its long-term costs will actually be lower than current system and save working families substantial sums of money. Their proposal calls for 7.5% payroll taxes and 4% income taxes with higher-income Americans paying higher tax rates.

Supporters of universal healthcare are correct in noting the necessity for making investments to help Americans access the care they require and deserve. Such investments will boost our economy by alleviating strain caused by costly chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and obesity as well as mitigating disparate health care among lower and higher income households. It will also ensure all Americans can access high-quality health services when necessary regardless of financial status; investing in our nation’s most valuable asset – its people.