Healthcare

CBO: Medicare for All gives 'many more' coverage but 'potentially disruptive'

Experts from Congress's nonpartisan budget office testified Wednesday that a single-payer health care system would result in "many more" people with health insurance but would also be "potentially disruptive" and increase government control.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) experts made the remarks at the second hearing on a single-payer, "Medicare for All" system that House Democrats have held this year, this time at the House Budget Committee.

"Many more people would probably have health insurance as a result but the government would take much more control over the health care system," said CBO deputy director Mark Hadley.

He noted that because health care represents around one-sixth of the economy, "those changes could significantly affect the overall U.S. economy" and be "potentially disruptive."

If more people gained coverage while payment rates to doctors and hospitals went down, Hadley said, there could be a lack of supply of health care causing "increased wait times and problems with access to care."

Republicans were eager to take the opportunity to attack the idea of Medicare for All, a key part of their strategy on health care. Top Republican Rep. Steve Womack (Ark.) called the idea a "one-size-fits-all, government-run health care system."

"As a Republican, I love talking about this," said GOP Rep. Chris Stewart (Utah).

Democratic leaders have supported hearings on Medicare for All, but are not supporting the idea itself, amid a divided Democratic caucus.

Republicans pressed the CBO officials for a cost estimate of the proposal, a crucial figure, but Hadley replied that "we don't have an estimate yet," because how the system is designed would greatly affect the cost.

Republicans pointed to other estimates that put the cost around $32 trillion over 10 years.

Democrats countered that some of those same estimates show that total national health spending could decrease, it would just be that the government picks up much more of the cost.

Hadley agreed that in certain scenarios "total national health care spending would be lower" under a single-payer system "but the amount of care supplied and the quality of that care might diminish."

Chairman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) noted the roughly 30 million people who still are uninsured, and the many more who are "underinsured" because they have high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs even with their insurance.

"We cannot accept this tragic reality as the status quo," Yarmuth said. "We must begin to pursue the next wave of health care reforms."

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