News Release

Can Medicare for All Help Deal with Pandemics?


Dr. Kahn is emeritus professor at the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and the Institute for Global Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco.

He said today: “Having Medicare for All would encourage promptly seeking needed medical treatment for individuals with symptoms that may indicate a disease like coronavirus. This means that cases would be detected earlier, speeding treatment and epidemic control. Some candidates and commentators have argued that any method to achieve universal coverage would work. However, this misses the mark. We need not only insurance but insurance without financial barriers  — deductibles and copays. You get that with Medicare for All but not other currently contemplated universal coverage approaches.”

Kahn adds, “There’s another important advantage to having a single billing system — rapid and standardized data on clinical encounters, including diagnoses and treatments. This would be immensely valuable for public health officials who are tracking epidemic patterns. Knowing when and where cases happen, and how they are handled, is critical. Our current highly fragmented insurance system and any piecemeal reform can’t do that.”

Kahn’s work includes “Projected costs of single-payer healthcare financing in the United States: A systematic review of economic analyses” and more than 160 scientific articles on the costs and health effects of disease prevention and treatment interventions in the U.S. and globally.