The Koch brothers have invested billions of dollars in a decades-long campaign to turn public opinion against necessary reforms, such as the establishment of a single-payer health-care system in the United States.
But now a Koch brothers–supported project is making the case for the “Medicare for All” reform that has been championed by progressives such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
A working paper produced by the Koch-funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which examined the potential costs of the Medicare for All Act (M4A) that has been sponsored by Sanders, was released with much fanfare this week. It was immediately embraced by right-wing politicians who are close to the Kochs, such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, who tweeted an article on the study with the message: “$32.6 trillion dollars. That’s how much Washington Democrats’ single-payer healthcare proposal would cost over 10 years. Even doubling all federal individual and corporate income taxes wouldn’t cover this cost. It is just absurd.”
Ryan is supposed to be the GOP’s “numbers guy.” But he missed the most important numbers in the study. While the speaker fixated on a prediction by the author of the working paper that the Sanders plan would raise federal health-care spending by roughly $32.6 trillion between 2022 and 2031, economists who actually read the report focused on a far more salient detail. On page 18 of the paper, in a section titled “Effects on National Health Expenditures and the Federal Budget,” came mention that under the Sanders plan “national personal health care costs decrease by less than 2 percent, while total health expenditures decrease by only 4 percent, even after assuming substantial administrative cost savings.”
That’s right. A report that was supposed to discredit the single-payer solution found that, even after the benefits of a Medicare for All program are realized—”additional healthcare demand that arises from eliminating copayments, providing additional categories of benefits, and covering the currently uninsured”—the potential cost of the plan would still be less than “potential savings associated with cutting provider payments and achieving lower drug costs.”
What that translates to is what Medicare for All advocates have been saying all along: Under a single-payer system, Americans would get more quality care for more people at less cost.
“Health care costs, even for those who have health insurance, are endangering tens of millions of people every day in this country,” said National Nurses United union co-president Jean Ross, RN. “What even this corporate-funded study concedes is that we can actually guarantee health care for everyone in this country, without the devastating, rising costs of premiums, deductibles, and co-pays–at less than we spend as a nation today on health costs.”
Needless to say, Sanders was delighted to turn the tables on the billionaire class.
“Thank you, Koch brothers, for accidentally making the case for Medicare for All!” the senator declared on Tuesday.
But he did not stop there. Sanders recorded a video in which he said, “Let me thank the Koch brothers, of all people, for sponsoring a study that shows that ‘Medicare for All’ would save the American people $2 trillion over a 10-year period.”
The long-time advocate for a single-payer system was not exactly singing the praises of the Mercatus study, which he dismissed as a “grossly misleading and biased” attempt by the Koch brothers to counter “growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for All’ program.”
But Sanders had every right to point out that, when a report that is embraced by the likes of Paul Ryan says a Medicare for All system will save Americans trillions of dollars, the case for reform has been strengthened by the very people who thought they were making a case against reform.
At the heart of all advocacy for Medicare for All is a moral argument. But, thanks to the Koch brothers, there is now an even stronger economic argument to go with it. As Senator Sanders says: “If every major country on earth can guarantee health care to all, and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States cannot do the same.”