CNN Fact Check: Sanders Has Been Repeating False Claim About Health Care Spending For a Decade

Sanders campaign official said anonymously 'the overall point' of Sanders' claim is clear about U.S. health care spending

Sen. Bernie Sanders / Getty Images
August 10, 2019

CNN published a fact check on Friday against Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), saying he has repeated the same "false claim" about health care spending since at least 2009.

Fact checker Daniel Dale said Sanders has falsely claimed multiple times over the last decade that the United States spends "twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation on Earth." Politifact rated the claim "false" in 2009 and 2015, according to CNN.

Dale said the claim is still false in 2019. While he argued the United States spends more than any "health care per capita of any Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development country," he said they don't spend twice as much as any other single country.

CNN's Dale went on to highlight several examples of Sanders making the false claim over the last few months, including a CBS interview last week, where he said, "We are now spending twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country." Sanders also said, "Right now, we spend twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other nation," during a CNN interview back in June.

According to 2018 estimates from the OECD, a primary source of data on health spending for wealthy countries, the US spent $10,586 per person last year. Switzerland ($7,317 per person), Norway ($6,187 per person) and Germany ($5,986 per person) were substantially above half the US level. Sweden ($5,447 per person), Austria ($5,395 per person) and Denmark ($5,299 per person) were very slightly above half.

The situation was similar for 2017, the last year for which the OECD has hard data. The US spent $10,207 per person; Switzerland spent $7,147, Norway $6,064, Germany $5,848, Austria $5,270, Sweden $5,264 and the Netherlands $5,155.

The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment from CNN, but a Sanders campaign official, on the condition of anonymity, said last month "the overall point" is evident, noting the United States spends more than other countries.

"That point is correct, but it's not what Sanders keeps saying -- 10 years after fact-checkers started telling him he was wrong," Dale wrote.