Medicare for all studies agree universal healthcare will lower costs

An analysis of 22 single-payer healthcare plans have nearly all come to the same conclusion: Universal healthcare will lower costs either in the first year or within the first several years.

The findings were published in PLOS Medicine in January and come at a time when Medicare for all policies are being hotly debated among Democratic presidential candidates. A few candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.), have adopted universal healthcare platforms, while others are pushing Medicare for all options.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco assessed the projected cost impact of a single-payer approach, surveying an expert panel and searching PubMed, Google, Google Scholar and preexisting lists for formal economic studies of the projected costs for such plans in the U.S.

In total, researchers looked analyses of 22 single-payer plans from the last three decades. Of the 22 analyses included in the study, 19, or 86%, predicted net savings in the first year of program operation. The median net savings was 3.46% of total costs in the first-year savings group. Twenty out of 22 analyses, or 91%, also predicted savings over several years.

While the consensus found savings for single-payer healthcare systems, the actual costs could change when put into action, the authors noted.

“We found a high degree of analytic consensus for the fiscal feasibility of a single-payer approach in the U.S.,” wrote first author Christopher Cai, of UCSF School of Medicine, et al. “Actual costs will depend on plan features and implementation.”

The biggest savings came from administrative costs, with a median of 8.8%. Other studies have estimated administrative costs in the current U.S. healthcare system produce significant waste. One estimate found $812 billion in healthcare administrative and bureaucracy costs could be saved by moving to a single-payer healthcare system. Drug costs were another significant area of savings under a single-payer plan.