Google+
Quote
NAVIGATION
PNHP RESOURCES

PolitiFact accurate but misleading on Sanders's claim of U.S. spending twice as much

Bernie Sanders repeats flawed claim about U.S. health care spending compared to other countries

By Will Cabaniss
PolitiFact, August 16, 2015

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.

Our ruling

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.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/aug/16/bernie-s/...

OECD Health Statistics 2015: http://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/health-data.htm

***

Comment:

By Don McCanne, MD

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 not correct.

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 NATIONS.