Oct. 10, 2018

Fact Check: Trump is Dead Wrong on Medicare-for-All

Statement of Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen

Note: Today, USA Today published an op-ed by President Donald Trump that included several falsehoods about single-payer health care.

Lies and deceptions from Trump are nothing new. Lies and deceptions from Trump about Medicare-for All are new, so it’s worth correcting his USA Today column attacking such a system.

One reason his attacks on Medicare-for-All are new is that he probably has supported it in the past. But whatever, there’s no reason to think Trump particularly believed what he said then, or what he says now. On to the major lies and deceits:

  1. Medicare-for-All would not “end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for all their lives.” The reason it’s called Medicare-for-All is because it would take the existing program and expand it to everyone. Seniors’ benefits would not be taken away – in fact, they would be improved, but everyone else would gain the benefits of Medicare, too.
  2. Medicare-for-All is not going to cost an “astonishing $32.6 trillion” over 10 years, because it will introduce major savings not adequately accounted for in the study Trump cites. Significant savings would come from eliminating vast amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy imposed by the current dysfunctional system, and steeply dropping costs for brand-name pharmaceuticals. But even if Medicare-for-All cost as much as Trump alleges, that amount would be LESS than projections for our current system, which also leaves tens of millions of Americans without coverage.
  3. Trump's claim to have kept his pledge to maintain coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and create new health insurance options is completely deceptive. First, the protections for pre-existing conditions remain in place only because Trump failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA.) Meanwhile, a Republican-led lawsuit is challenging the ACA, including guarantee for pre-existing conditions, and there’s a real worry that, especially with Brett Kavanaugh now on the Supreme Court, it might succeed. As for new junk health insurance options Trump has authorized, they offer only the illusion of care, because they permit insurers to skirt the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions.
  4. Medicare-for-All would not “lead to the massive rationing of health care.” It is the current system that rations care, based on the ability to pay. One-third of Americans say they had a problem accessing medical care because of cost in the last year. With Medicare-for-All, everyone will be able to see a doctor or access treatment, irrespective of how much money they have.

Why is support for Medicare-for-All skyrocketing? First, because Americans know from their own experience that the current system is a total mess. Health care is unaffordable, copays are a killer and doctors make you wait and don’t have time for you. The data backs up people’s impressions: We pay far more than other countries for health care, and we get far less – among rich countries, we alone have massive coverage gaps, and our health care outcomes are by far inferior.

Medicare-for-All would take the best performing part of our health care system – Medicare – improve it, and then extend it to all Americans. That system alone will ensure coverage for all Americans, and, by wiping out the massive inefficiencies of the current corporate-dominated system, it will enable us to expand coverage and improve quality for no additional cost.

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