Florida Republicans Are Lying to Pretend Medicare-for-All Will Cost Too Much

Florida Republicans Are Lying to Pretend Medicare-for-All Will Cost Too Much
Courtesy of the Andrew Gillum campaign
Courtesy of the Andrew Gillum campaign
Florida Republicans are using an utterly debunked study to try to slam Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum's support for a federal, Medicare-for-All-style health-care plan. And because the study has been thoroughly torn apart, it's pretty fair to assume the GOP is lying to smear Gillum.

Here's why: Earlier this year, the libertarian, Koch brothers-tied think tank the Mercatus Center released a study claiming if Sen. Bernie Sanders' nationwide Medicare-for-All program went into effect, the plan to give every American health care would cost $32 trillion in taxes over ten years. That sure seems like a lot! A number that large looks terrifying without the proper context, doesn't it?

No one is disputing that $32 trillion number, but here's the rub: The Mercatus Center's own data also showed that if the government does not institute Medicare-for-All, Americans are projected to spend even more in health-care premiums and other hospital-related spending in that same period.

In other words, the study actually shows that Medicare-for-All would save American taxpayers around $2 trillion — a fact the Mercatus Center conveniently did not mention in the text of its study. Leftist policy analyst Matt Bruenig noticed this discrepancy only after he combed through the study's data tables. Other reporters, including analysts at Vox, have since confirmed Bruenig's finding.

Of course, many other, less thorough journalists didn't bother to fact-check the study the same way Bruenig did. Most notable, Washington Post "fact checker" Glenn Kessler used the Mercatus study to issue Sanders and Gillum "four Pinocchios" — the paper's equivalent of a pants-on-fire lie — for claiming Medicare-for-All would save Americans trillions in out-of-pocket costs. After a host of very legitimate writers, including national correspondent Ryan Cooper of the Week and Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, pointed out Kessler was using a fraudulent study to claim Sanders and Gillum were lying, Kessler merely downgraded his "fact-check" to three Pinocchios instead of four rather than retracting his piece.

Now the Republican Governors Association's Florida team is using that same, uncorrected Kessler "fact-check" to blast out the claim that Gillum is lying about Medicare-for-All:
The Florida Republican Party, too, has used this scaremongering line in the past, including in this short Twitter video claiming, without providing any supplemental evidence, that single-payer health care would somehow take medical coverage away from Floridians:
The GOP is intentionally obscuring the truth here. No one is disputing the fact that a new, government-run health-care program will require raising trillions in taxes. But the GOP is intentionally not comparing that number to the amount Americans will already pay for health-care costs and premiums out of their pocket. Nearly every study on government-run health-care programs shows Americans will pay more, in total, to health insurers and hospitals than if they simply paid taxes into a government program.

There's tons more data on this point outside the Mercatus study. Most obvious, every other developed nation on Earth provides some sort of government-run health care. And literally all of their citizens pay less for health care than Americans pay, while Americans receive generally worse levels of care. In terms of the pure amount of money that citizens spend on health care, America has by far the most expensive system in the world.

In 2015, Americans spent an average of $9,024 per person on health care per year, while those in the next-highest-spending country, Switzerland (which runs something like an Obamacare-on-steroids system where residents must pay private insurance companies at government-set rates), paid only $6,787 per year. Citizens in France, where residents pay for nonprofit health insurance at government-controlled prices, spent $4,367 per year. In Britain, where citizens pay taxes into the government's National Health Service (NHS), they spent $3,971 per person annually.

In the meantime, actual health outcomes and statistics — life expectancies, rates of preventable deaths, infant mortality and maternal deaths during childbirth, the availability of hospital beds, even wait times for a hospital appointment — are either better or comparable in those countries. (Critics have argued that some of the better health outcomes in European and Asian countries might be owed to other social or societal factors, such as food-portion sizes in Europe and levels of exercise or time spent walking, but it's worth noting that many of those aspects of a healthy lifestyle also came about through government regulation.)

Even right-wing politicians and pundits in other developed nations generally support their government-run health-care programs: U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, a conservative, is proposing investing more into her country's NHS to fund new, early cancer screenings for Brits. Ron DeSantis, in comparison, once tried to argue that America has no "lack of care" crisis because uninsured people can "show up at the emergency room" and ostensibly deal with hospital bills later.

There actually are fair questions about whether it's smart to try to implement state-level Medicare-for-All programs given that poorer and sicker people are likelier to move to states with single-payer systems. Likewise, richer, healthier people are likelier to flee to other states. Plus, unlike the federal government, states have no control over their currencies and can't, say, inflate or deflate dollars in one state specifically or run up the same sort of deficits or debt levels the federal government can with relative ease. None of this is to say single-payer can't work — quite the contrary, in fact — but past experiments suggest that trying it in, say, California by itself likely wouldn't work out.

But those aren't the sort of good-faith debates the Florida Republicans want to have here. They're simply claiming that Florida — a state which ranks 45th in health-care coverage and where 44 percent of residents can't pay for basic items such as food and housing — can't afford single-payer health care.

In reality, the precise opposite is true.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.