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Among the biggest proponents of a Medicare-style universal health care plan in the U.S. is the California Nurses Association and its national arm. But it's hard to wrap up all the parts of a universal system and say what it would "cost," which is an issue that opponents always latch onto.

A preliminary study released today by the nurses makes a good start at forming a big picture, predicting that health care for everyone, in one big package, would create 2.6 million jobs and cost the economy as a whole only about $63 billion dollars--less than half of what one financial company, AIG, got in federal bailout money.

A tight summary of what the preliminary study shows is in a piece today by progressive business writer John Nichols in The Nation. It's basically this:

[E}xpanding Medicare to include the uninsured, and those on Medicaid
or employer-sponsored health plans, and expanding coverage for those
with limited Medicare, would:

1. Create 2,613,495 million new permanent good-paying jobs (slightly
exceeding the number of jobs lost in 2008) -- and jobs that are not
easily shipped overseas

2. Boost the economy with $317 billion in increased business and public revenues

3. Add $100 billion in employee compensation

4. Infuse public budgets with $44 billion in new tax revenues

The whole study is here. It's not easy reading, but the charts alone give a good sense of the study.

The CNA and its allies have a job ahead in defending and expanding on those numbers, as well as figuring out how all the current employer, patient and state and federal government spending on health care could be rolled up into a single government-based funding source for a Medicare-for-all system.

The significance of the study is that it uses broad-based econometric modeling to establish the full economic effect of the current (partial, fragmented and costly) health care sytem, and estimate how that would change under a universal health care system. It's not about health care financing, but about the overall economic effects of health care.

Others, including MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber, have written on the job creation and economic stimulus benefits of health care reform. But the CNA study puts some big numbers on it.