Here we go again.
It's been per month since Democratic presidential hopefuls last took to the debate stage, but Tuesday night in Detroit 10 candidates again faced off for that first of this two-night event.
Health policy issues were the red hot issue.
The matchup between Sens. Customer advocates of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont was considered the marquee event, along with other candidates – including Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; author Marianne Williamson; Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan; and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke – hoping to make use of the evening to face out of the rest of the primary field.
Health care offered each candidate a potent opportunity. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney argued that “Medicare for All” would “get Trump reelected.” Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana spoke towards the plight of the teacher “working a second job to afford her insulin.” And former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposes Medicare for All, spoke of how he had expanded healthcare – claims we rated mostly true earlier this year when he talked about steps he had taken toward achieving universal coverage.
But even as the candidates put their markers down on the ideological spectrum, not every one of their claims fully stood up to scrutiny.
We fact-checked some of the people remarks.
SANDERS: “Right now, we have a dysfunctional health care system. Eighty-seven million uninsured or underinsured, 500,000 Americans each year going bankrupt due to hospital bills, 30,000 people dying as the healthcare industry makes many vast amounts of dollars in profit.”
That's lots of numbers for a Tuesday night, and as confidently as Sanders stated them, they depend on complicated data and, arguably, fuzzy math.
In claiming you will find 87 million uninsured or underinsured Americans, he is citing 2021 data released through the Commonwealth Fund. In contrast to the 27.4 million uninsured in 2021, based on the Kaiser Family Foundation, this includes individuals with insurance who nonetheless experienced high medical costs in accordance with their household income.
It is not clear how Sanders calculated the amount of medical bankruptcies every year. He may be talking about research released in February that found approximately 530,000 families file for bankruptcy each year due to medical bills. However, typically, many factors play into your bankruptcy filing, which makes it difficult to pin on medical costs alone.
And though he did not complete the idea, this is not the first time Sanders has claimed that 30,000 people die each year due to the high cost of healthcare. When he tweeted claiming last month, we rated it half true because it seems to depend on weak math.
Former Maryland congressman John Delaney also reiterated a place he utilized in the first round of Democratic primary debates.
DELANEY: “It’s been well documented that if all of the bills were paid at Medicare rate, which is specifically – I believe it's in section 1200 of the bill – then many hospitals in this country would close. I have been going around rural America and that i ask rural hospital administrators one question: 'If all your bills were paid at the Medicare rate last year, what can happen?' Plus they all look at me and say, 'We would close.'”
Delaney chose to make this argument to fight Sanders' Medicare for All plan, which he referred to as “bad” policy in his opening statement. He made this claim about rural hospitals during last month's debates, too. We rated it false.
It is undeniable that Medicare pays hospitals a small fraction of what private, employer-based insurance pays them. A RAND Health study released captured found private insurers in 2021 paid hospitals 241% of the prices Medicare paid, on average.
But professionals we spoke with following the last debate said the results on hospitals could be more nuanced: Although some suffer under a Medicare for those system, other hospitals may do better. And it is unclear how much hospitals could be paid under Sanders' plan; that section – it's actually Section 611 – basically says the federal government would decide later how to pay providers.
And O'Rourke took on the public health concern.
O'ROURKE: “The Cdc [is] prevented from actually studying [gun violence] in the first place.”
This is definitely an outdated Democratic talking point. The reality is more complicated.
For 2 decades, spending bills included something known as the Dickey amendment having said that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enables you to advocate or promote gun control.”
That language remains, but in 2021, lawmakers added, in a separate report, what “the Secretary of Health and Human Services claims the CDC has got the authority to conduct research around the causes of gun violence.”
Even the initial Dickey rule didn't totally forbid research.
For some time at least, the CDC continued to fund studies into the links between firearms and injuries, proof with a people that the Dickey amendment and research could coexist.
But after 1999, gun research plummeted. David Hemenway, director of Harvard's Injury Control Research Center, told PolitiFact this past year that politics, not the law, drove the CDC's agenda.
“The CDC always had some flexibility, but it wasn't likely to fund firearms research since it knew it might, as had happened previously, get hauled before Congress and threatened with reduced funding if any research it sponsored suggested that having more firearms wasn't good for public health,” Hemenway said.