During Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton criticized Bernie Sanders’ proposal for a “Medicare for All” healthcare program, stating, “the numbers just don’t add up.”
“A respected health economist said that these plans would cost a trillion dollars more a year,” Clinton said, likely referring to a recent analysis by Emory University professor Kenneth Thorpe, who helped craft a single-payer healthcare system in Sanders’ home state of Vermont, which said Sanders’ proposal was off by an extra $1.1 trillion annually.
“So if you’re having Medicare for all, single-payer, you need to level with people about what they will have at the end of the process you are proposing,” Clinton said. “And based on every analysis that I can find by people who are sympathetic to the goal, the numbers don’t add up, and many people will actually be worse off than they are right now.”
But according to other healthcare experts, both Clinton and Thorpe are working with false calculations.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor in public health at City University of New York at Hunter College and co-founder of the advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program, said Friday that the “numbers on single-payer do, in fact, add up.”
“It’s indisputable that single-payer systems in other countries cover everyone for virtually everything, and at much lower cost than our health care system,” Woolhandler said. “Experience in countries with single-payer systems, such as Canada, Scotland, and Taiwan, proves that we can have more, better and cheaper care.”
For example, “if the U.S. moved to a single-payer system as efficient as Canada’s, we’d save $430 billion on useless paperwork and insurance companies’ outrageous profits, more than enough to cover the 31 million Americans who remain uninsured, and to eliminate co-payments and deductibles for everyone,” she said.
In January, Woolhandler and her colleague Dr. David Himmelstein authored a response to Thorpe’s analysis that found it to be based on “several incorrect, and occasionally outlandish, assumptions,” including “administrative savings of only 4.7 percent of expenditures” and “huge increases in the utilization of care, increases far beyond those that were seen when national health insurance was implemented in Canada, and much larger than is possible given the supply of doctors and hospital beds.”
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