Tuesday, August 18, 2015
Tampa Bay Times
August 16, 2015
Bernie Sanders repeats flawed claim about U.S. health care spending
compared to other countries
By Will Cabaniss
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is on a campaign for
"Medicare for all" — or at least something like it.
Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who identifies as a
socialist, told NBC's Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd to look at how
much the country spends compared to the rest of the world as a reason
for a single-payer system.
"We spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the
people of any other country," Sanders said.
It's a striking claim, and one we heard from Sanders six years ago.
We rated the claim False then, and it's still wrong now.
We looked at data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD), widely cited by experts as an authoritative source
for this information.
In 2007, the United States led the world in health care spending at
$7,167 per capita, according to the OECD. Norway and Switzerland
followed at $4,579 and $4,568, respectively.
The United States maintained its spending lead in the years that
followed. But Sanders puts the difference too strongly when he says U.S.
spending is "almost twice" per capita of "any other country."
According to the OECD's most recent data, U.S. spending grew to $8,713
per capita in 2013. Switzerland and Norway came in second and third at
$6,325 and $5,862 per capita, respectively.
Had Sanders fine-tuned his talking point by claiming that the United
States spends twice as much per capita as the average developed country,
his statement would been accurate. Average per capita spending is less
than $3,500 across the 32 countries listed in the OECD database. That's
40 percent of what the United States spends per person.
Sanders said that "we spend almost twice as much per capita on health
care as do the people of any other country."
The United States spends more on health care per capita than other
countries, but not always twice as much. Sanders' comment suggests the
United States outpaces all other countries more than it actually does.
European countries with extensive social service networks aren't so far
behind the United States.
We rate his statement False.
OECD Health Statistics 2015
Comment by Don McCanne
Sen. Bernie Sanders told NBC's Chuck Todd, "We spend almost twice as
much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country."
You've probably heard, or thought you heard, similar statements from
others, including some of the PNHP leadership. But this specific
statement is technically incorrect.
Sanders did include the important specification that he was referring to
"per capita" spending, but by specifying that our per capita spending
was almost twice that of any other country, that would place the second
highest spending country at slightly over half of our spending. That is
What he likely intended to say was, "We spend almost twice as much per
capita on health care as the average of developed nations," or, "…
industrialized nations," or, "… wealthy nations," or, more specifically,
"… as the average of all OECD nations." PolitiFact indicates that such a
statement would have been accurate.
Yet this statement still isn't quite accurate. In 2013, the latest year
for which we have full data, the United States spent $8713 per capita,
whereas the OECD average was $3453 per capita. That is not "almost
twice" the OECD average, but rather the United States is spending over
TWO AND A HALF TIMES AS MUCH PER CAPITA as the average per capita
spending of OECD nations (2.52 times as much).
PolitiFact rules, "Sanders' comment suggests the United States outpaces
all other countries (in spending) more than it actually does." In fact,
the United States outpaces the average per capita spending of other
developed nations by even more than what Sanders intended to say.
Remember, THE UNITED STATES SPENDS TWO AND A HALF TIMES AS MUCH PER
CAPITA ON HEALTH CARE AS THE AVERAGE PER CAPITA SPENDING OF ALL OECD
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