How much would it cost to implement Universal Healthcare in the U.S?

If we switched to a single payer system, how much more money would the government have to spend to implement it compared to what we’re spending now?

I’ve got a buddy who is pretty liberal, but he seems to be convinced that “now is not the time” to implement Universal Healthcare, because it would be “too expensive”… “we already have a massive debt”. Maybe if I could get some hard numbers, it would illuminate the issue.

Americans pay more than other countries for health care now, for inferior care. We’d save money by going to universal care, and be healthier to boot.

If you were to implement it in one fell swoop, the cost might be a little daunting. I think the main problem though, would be that you would essentially be “nationalizing” a lot of private businesses (current insurance providers). The stink would be enormous. Would you just tell them all “sorry, as of tomorrow, you’re out of business. Thanks.” I’m thinking there might be a cost to “buy them out”

As long as we plan our health care system well and keep it funded, we’d be saving money nationwide. At least a few hundred billion dollars nationwide.

As for actually creating this system? Fairly trivial. There’s nothing physical to construct, no bridges or buildings. Just planning and training people. While I don’t have any numbers on what that would cost (Yay something to work on for next week!), it’s going to be fairly trivial.

As long as we plan our health care system well and keep it funded, we’d be saving money nationwide. At least a few hundred billion dollars nationwide.

As for actually creating this system? Fairly trivial. There’s nothing physical to construct, no bridges or buildings. Just planning and training people. While I don’t have any numbers on what that would cost (Yay something to work on for next week!), it’s going to be fairly trivial.

Well, I guess it depends on how you would implement it. In the short term it would cost a lot because you’d need to have some kind of transition to the new system. IMHO in the long term we’d get a shittier system for those who currently have health care and a better system for those who don’t. I seriously doubt if we’d be healthier overall if the US implemented such a system because I have serious doubts we would implement it very well…even assuming that ANY UHC system is all that great I doubt ours would be at the top of the list.

The current system (from memory) costs over $2 trillion a year…so, I suppose that would be a good ball park for what it would cost to change it over.

I think that’s why Obama is proposing a dual system instead of trying to put in a UHC system. My understanding (which is fuzzy) of what Obama is proposing is to essentially put in a government run health insurance system that will be available to anyone who doesn’t currently have health insurance…and that he will use leverage against the existing system in the form of (I assume) more taxes or other penalties in order to ween people from the current system and encourage them to go on the government system. I’m sure some of the Obama-maniacs here have a better idea of how this will work (in fact, I probably have some or all of this wrong), so maybe they will come in and describe it.

However, I think that your statement is kind of the reason Obama isn’t proposing a UHC system…at least not initially.


The marketplace should sort them out without the government shutting them down or buying them out. Those who can compete with free healthcare for all will survive. Good riddance to the rest.

The cost savings in UHC would come from lower administrative costs. The way this cost reduction would be accomplished is to simply billing and payments. Simplification would allow the elimination of the administrative jobs now handling this complex task. To put this bluntly, the cost savings would come from a massive layoff of clerical workers in the insurance and health care industries.

Tens of thousands would be unemployed. While UHC makes economic sense, it would be a painful transition for many.

And in lower drug prices, and in less sickness thanks to more preventative care, greater economic output from healthier people, less expense on welfare since people won’t be driven into poverty from accidents, a greater willingness for companies to locate themselves in America, and in various other things besides administration.

Our present system is simply an example of our fetishistic reverence for the free market and the private sector, even to the point of being self destructive. It’s a waste and a perverse luxury, and one we can’t really afford.

this is the truth of the matter, I mean really other than a few nuts is there ANYONE who really thinks people should be without health care?

the industry I am in by its nature means small business, it also means I dont have any kind of healthcare which means my carpal tunnel has been untreated for 6 years now, it means I havent seen a dentist in over 20, it means when my back is acting up and costing me sleep night after night I just deal with it, it means that my messed up issues with food have to be figured out, by me without any testing or professional help at all. no help for glasses or eye surgery, nothing.

I work hard, do my job damn well if you ask my clients, I am even well paid but this is what I have to deal with daily. I think a better question for the OP is how the hell can we NOT justify putting a system in place? I am actually well off compared to some people out there.

Some scary numbers:

Lots more scary stats to be had there.

While I am no fan of Big Government I think UHC is necessary in some fashion. Health care costs have hugely outstripped any sense of proportion to normal inflation and shows no signs of slowing down. One would assume market forces would moderate such costs but they do not. Something needs to be done.

Our current system is the worst of both worlds. It’s neither a free market system nor a fully socialized system, but kind of sits on the fence. Consequently it gets hit from both directions, so to speak. We definitely need to get off the fence, because like your numbers show we are paying a hell of a lot for our system and the price is just going to keep going up. Whether that means we need UHC I’m less convinced of…but really anything would be better than what we have right now…a hybrid monster that has the worst aspects of each system.


Actually corp[orations do not pay for health care. They pass it to the consumer. We all pay for the health care of those who are covered. Many who have no coverage are paying for those that do.
If we removed that cost from the companies we would compete better. The only one who benefits are the insurance companies. Doctors have to fight insurance companies every day. They provide staff that spends the day on the phone with them. It is wasteful and wrong.

My new outlook is to simply ignore you when you post but…what the hell are you talking about? Cite?

(I’m not sanguine about receiving such a cite, mind)


I pretty much agree with this. Over in the very well-mannered Pit thread on UHC, there is a lot of talk about the administrative overhead due to dealing with insurance companies. I think a pretty good estimate is that 30% of a healthcare provider’s revenue goes to managing billing and other insurance-related functions. I believe most of this overhead cost would be eliminated if we went to a single-payer system.

(Full disclosure: I would probably lose my job if a single-payer system were implemented tomorrow, although as an IT guy I could find another.)

Is it not fairly clear that if a corporation has costs (ie providing expensive health care insurance to employees) then it will pass those costs on to consumers in the form of increased prices?

This seems quite clear to me, and I don’t know how one would find a cite for it.

Um…even if this is the case (and it probably is to a certain extent…it’s called ‘the price of doing business’), so what? The company passes the cost of the steel and plastic that goes into it’s products along to you too, assuming those things are in the product. It passes on the cost of marketing the product on to you too. It passes the labor of making those products on to you too. It’s, you know, reality…companies aren’t in business to give away their products or to take a loss if they can help it. If a company has to pay for health care then it’s a cost (and companies pay a LOT for health care)…if they have to pay for it and it costs more than they can pass on then they can go out of business or stop giving health care.


I think the point here is that if I buy a product from a company I am paying for the employees healthcare, if there is another company with the same product but not supplying healthcare then they either win the price war or win the profits. if the healthcare is government backed I still pay for it but now it comes out of taxes, its more evenly distributed and in the case of healthcare would be much more fairly distributed than most tax money is.

If we continued to provide the same type of healthcare we do now we would be providing for an extra 47 million people. These people are typically younger and healthier than the average american, so they might cost less than average. However, those currently with high deductible or high co-pays would use more so it might balance out. If they use the same amount of health care as the insured it would cost 2.76 trillion for everybody. That is a difference of 460 billion dollars a year for the first year and it would go up from there. If you paid for this via higher taxes there would be a deadweight loss as well. How much deadweight loss would depend on what kind of taxes.

Well, my original reply to this has been eaten by the internets, so I’ll summarize by asking you a question in return:

Why do ANY companies offer health care then? Why don’t they all cut costs by cutting out a health care expense? Why do the majority of companies in the US bother at all? The majority of US citizens have health care, and I believe most of them get that health care partially or fully through work.

As for the second part, I suppose it makes a certain sense on paper…but we are talking about having the government control health care. We are talking about the government creating the bureaucracy and managing the system. This may work well in other countries (though I’m unconvinced it’s the health care paradise that some wax eloquently about), but I don’t think it will work well in THIS country…I think it will create a monster, and in the end the majority will have worse care than they do today (while a minority will have access to care they don’t have today). Certainly this may seem a good trade off…but I’m not sanguine about the possibility.

Of course, Obama isn’t proposing such a system so it’s still a moot point right now. We’ll see how what he DOES propose works out. If it works out…well, I’m willing to change my position on this if I can see how it will pan out, and can be convinced that we’ll get better care (for the majority) while paying less. This seems like magical thinking to me, but what the hell…what we DO have is certainly not working well, so something needs to be done.