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AP FACT CHECK: Sanders Spins Savings in Medicare Plan

by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
Wednesday Aug 8, 2018
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) speaks in support of Abdul El-Sayed at a Get Out The Vote rally for Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed at Cobo Center in Detroit onSunday, Aug. 5, 2018
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) speaks in support of Abdul El-Sayed at a Get Out The Vote rally for Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed at Cobo Center in Detroit onSunday, Aug. 5, 2018  (Source:Jacob Hamilton/Ann Arbor News via AP)

Sen. Bernie Sanders is skimming over the facts in claiming that his "Medicare for all" plan will lead to big reductions in what Americans spend for health care.

In a recent tweet, the Vermont independent insists the plan will cut $2 trillion from the nation's health care bill.

But that's based on a scenario in which hospitals and doctors accept significantly lower payments for many patients. It's a big asterisk, and one that Sanders fails to disclose.

A look at the claim:

SANDERS: "Medicare for All will lead to a $2 TRILLION REDUCTION in national health expenditures over 10 years." - July 30 tweet.

THE FACTS: Sanders' vision of El Dorado in his tweet and a YouTube video is being widely echoed by supporters of a government-run national health system. But Sanders mischaracterizes a study from a libertarian policy institute that found his legislation would actually lead to a massive boost in federal spending and taxation.

The study from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia also concluded that "Medicare for all" is unlikely to produce a dividend for U.S. society in the form of lower total health care spending. To get that result would require paying hospitals and doctors much less than they get now and risk putting some out of business.

The study found that if hospitals and doctors were willing to accept Medicare-based payments of 40 percent less for patients who currently have private insurance, then projected U.S. health care spending would decline by about 3 percent from 2022 to 2031, or $2.05 trillion.

That's the number Sanders is celebrating.

But the study also said if medical providers continue to be paid about the same as now, U.S. health care spending would increase by $3.25 trillion over 10 years under "Medicare for all." It works out to about 5 percent more.

That's far different from Sanders' assurance that his plan "will lead" to huge spending reductions.

The study concludes it's unlikely.

"More generous health care insurance would be provided to everyone at the expense of health care providers," it said. "Whether providers could sustain such losses and remain in operation, and how those who continue operations would adapt to such dramatic payment reductions, are critically important questions."

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