Meta-study: U.S. Single-payer Healthcare System Would Reduce Costs

  • A meta-study of 22 studies examining the potential affects of a single-payer healthcare system on the U.S. economy has shown healthcare spending would fall under the system.
  • Nineteen of the studies found that spending would fall in the first year, and all twenty-two studies found spending would fall in the long term.
  • The majority of savings were predicted to come from simplified billing and lower drug costs.

Medi-care for all could actually save money? A new meta-study shows that a reduction in healthcare spending under single payer is not only possible, but extremely likely.

The meta-study analyzes 22 other studies which examined the possible affects on the U.S economy of switching to a universal healthcare system. The results are dramatic. Nineteen of the studies found that spending would fall in the first year, and all twenty-two studies found spending would fall in the long term. The median savings rate across all studies was 8.8%.

The dramatic savings under a universal healthcare system are “a testament to the waste currently in our healthcare system,” according to Christopher Cai, lead author of the study and third-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.

The U.S. is the only high-income economy in the world which does not have a universal, government funded, or mandated healthcare system. The authors of the study note, “the US multi-payer system leaves residents uninsured or underinsured, despite overall healthcare costs far above other nations.”

Despite public support for single payer, as high as 70%, efforts to implement such a system have been stymied by Congress since as far back as 1990. The Medicare for All plan authored by Senator and Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, cited by the authors as a catalyst for undertaking the study, is the latest in a long string of efforts to bring single payer to the U.S. If the effort succeeds, Americans could join the rest of the advanced world in having universal single payer healthcare coverage.

Cai C, Runte J, Ostrer I, Berry K, Ponce N, Rodriguez M, et al. (2020) Projected costs of single-payer healthcare financing in the United States: A systematic review of economic analyses. PLoS Med 17(1): e1003013. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003013

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