When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders squared off in the Democratic presidential debate last Thursday, Clinton attacked Sanders’ single-player healthcare proposal, claiming the numbers just “don’t add up.”
Too bad Clinton failed to truly add up the numbers.
She argued that a “respected health economist” said such a system would cost a “trillion dollars more” per year. Her reference was likely pointing to Kenneth Thorpe, Emory University professor, who actually helped draft the single-payer system in Vermont, Sanders’ home state.
Clinton told Sanders that he needed “level with people” about what they will wind up receiving with a single-payer system, claiming that the numbers don’t add up and people will be worse off than they are now.
Health experts disagree. They say Thorpe is working with incorrect calculations.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a public health professor at City University of New York, says the numbers on single-payer do “in fact” add up. The professor, who is the co-founder of the Physicians for a National Health Program, also pointed to the fact that other countries have implemented single-payer systems that cover virtually everything, and still manage to do so at a lower cost than the U.S. He says the single-payer systems in Scotland, Canada, and Taiwan prove that we can have better and cheaper care.
The move to a single-payer system, according to Woolhandler, will save about $430 billion in paperwork costs associated with insurance companies and their profits. That alone would be enough to cover the 31 million Americans who still do not have health insurance, and it would completely eliminate deductibles and co-payments for everyone.
Woolhandler co-authored a response to Thorpe citing the administration cost savings, and also pointed to the fact that Thorpe’s previous analysis showed a single-payer system did, in fact, produce significant cost savings.
In addition to administrative costs, Woolhandler also points out that a single-payer system would also allow for bargaining with drug companies for discounts on medications. Other countries receive discounts of about 50%. With one single, large customer, you gain significant bargaining power that helps keep costs under control.
Sanders’ rejected Clinton’s claims that his plan is unachievable. “Every major country on earth whether it’s the UK, whether it’s France, whether it’s Canada, has managed to provide healthcare to all people as a right,” he said. These countries are also spending less per capita on healthcare than the U.S., he further noted. Sanders said he could not accept the notion that the U.S. could not do the same.