The Trump administration slammed “Medicare for All” in its annual economic review Tuesday, claiming that creating a new government-run health care program would be expensive, damage the economy and hurt Americans’ health.
President Donald Trump and his top health officials have repeatedly blasted Medicare for All, which several Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers are backing.
“M4A will be neither more efficient nor cheaper than the current system, and it could adversely affect health,” said the report, which is prepared by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, using a shorthand acronym for the proposed reform.
Instead, the administration backs the typical Republican moves of increasing competition and requiring patients to foot at least part of their health care bills to keep their usage in check.
Under a Medicare for All proposal introduced by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, the federal government would provide coverage to all Americans at virtually no cost and would essentially eliminate private insurance.
Sanders, who is expected to introduce an updated version of the bill in coming weeks, has offered different ways of paying the tab – which some have estimated at $32 trillion over a decade – by hiking taxes on the wealthy, as well as on all taxpayers. He argues that many people will ultimately save money because they’ll no longer have to pay premiums and will enjoy better health because they will be able to access care without worrying about the bills.
But the White House calculates that if Medicare for All were financed through higher taxes, it would reduce GDP over the long run by 9% and household income after taxes and health expenditures by 19%. Tuesday’s report also said it would add $2.4 trillion to federal spending in 2022 and lead to shortages of care, longer wait times and reduced innovation – many of the familiar arguments against a national health care system.
Medicare for All would especially hurt those on Medicare, limiting their access to care and decreasing their life spans, the report said. It raised the specter of rationing senior citizens’ access to expensive procedures, arguing that’s what happens in many European universal health care programs.
The report included graphics showing the US has better average survival rates after a cancer diagnosis and shorter wait times for specialists and non-emergency surgeries than many developed nations in Europe and elsewhere.
The administration also used the report to promote its achievements in lowering drug prices, a particular focus of the President. It touted that the Food and Drug Administration sped up approvals of less expensive generic drugs, which saved consumers $26 billion in the first 18 months of Trump’s tenure. The agency also increased approvals of new pharmaceuticals.
The advisers also noted that price growth had slowed, though it cited a little-used Consumer Price Index for prescription drugs that experts say is not the best measure.
Drug makers, however, continue to raise list prices, despite the harsh spotlight on their practices. Lawmakers have convened hearings on how to reduce consumers’ cost burden, inviting those who have struggled to pay for insulin and who have lost family members because they couldn’t afford the drug.
Most of what the administration has suggested or enacted so far have been rather marginal, experts said. Its bigger ideas – including basing Medicare’s payments for drugs on their cost abroad and banning drug makers from giving rebates to insurers and pharmacy benefit mangers – are still in the proposal stage.