Preventative care is much cheaper in the long run than emergency care but that still doesn't bring us close to the cost of granting Medicare coverage to the uninsured or under insured.
Maybe this is true if you look at prevention alone. But I don't believe it's true at all if you look at all
the efficiencies you can get from a universal health care system. To show you why I don't believe this, here's a back-of-the-envelope calculation in round numbers:
As a nation, Americans spend 15% of their income on health care. Germans on the other hand, who have universal health care, spend 10% of their income on health care. This is the second largest percentage among the major Western economies, and it overstates German expenditures because it's based on a smaller GDP than America's. As an aside, this cost reduction comes at no price in public health: Our life expectancy, child mortality rate, and other metrics of public health, are better than America's.
Hence, if America can generate comparable efficiencies by adopting the German-style system now proposed by the Democrats, the new system would insure 300 million Americans instead of 250 millions, at a cost of 2/3 the old dollar amount per person. Altogether, then, you would still
spend less money than you do today.
Granted, this is just a back-of-the-envelope calculation. But there's nothing unrealistic in it. It's entirely plausible that you can insure all the uninsured, and finance it with nothing but the efficiency gains from the reform. Universal health care is one of those rare cases where Milton Friedman is wrong and there is such a thing as a free lunch, after all.