U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., takes questions from "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd on Aug. 16, 2015, about his Democratic presidential bid. (Screengrab of NBC video) U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., takes questions from "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd on Aug. 16, 2015, about his Democratic presidential bid. (Screengrab of NBC video)

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., takes questions from "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd on Aug. 16, 2015, about his Democratic presidential bid. (Screengrab of NBC video)

By Will Cabaniss August 16, 2015

Bernie Sanders repeats flawed claim about U.S. health care spending compared to other countries

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is on a campaign for "Medicare for all" — or at least something like it.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont who identifies as a socialist, told NBC’s Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd to look at how much the country spends compared to the rest of the world as a reason for a single-payer system.

"We spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country," Sanders said.

It’s a striking claim, and one we heard from Sanders six years ago.

We rated the claim False then, and it's still wrong now.

We looked at data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), widely cited by experts as an authoritative source for this information.

In 2007, the United States led the world in health care spending at $7,167 per capita, according to the OECD. Norway and Switzerland followed at $4,579 and $4,568, respectively.

The United States maintained its spending lead in the years that followed. But Sanders puts the difference too strongly when he says U.S. spending is "almost twice" per capita of "any other country."

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According to the OECD’s most recent data, U.S. spending grew to $8,713 per capita in 2013. Switzerland and Norway came in second and third at $6,325 and $5,862 per capita, respectively.

(The organization’s incomplete 2014 data set, which does not include the United States, shows no country spending over $6,500 per capita.)

Had Sanders fine-tuned his talking point by claiming that the United States spends twice as much per capita as the average developed country, his statement would been accurate. Average per capita spending is less than $3,500 across the 32 countries listed in the OECD database. That’s 40 percent of what the United States spends per person.

A spokesman for Sanders could not be reached for comment.

Our ruling

Sanders said that "we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as do the people of any other country."

The United States spends more on health care per capita than other countries, but not always twice as much. Sanders’ comment suggests the United States outpaces all other countries more than it actually does. European countries with extensive social service networks aren’t so far behind the United States. 

We rate his statement False.

Our Sources

Meet the Press, Aug. 16, 2015

PolitiFact, "Sanders says U.S. doubles every other country in per capita health spending," Aug. 20, 2009

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, "Health spending (indicator)," accessed Aug. 16, 2015

PolitiFact New Hampshire, "Ben Carson says U.S. spending on health care is double next closest nation," Apr. 30, 2015

Email interview with Timothy Jost, professor of law at Washington and Lee University, Aug. 16, 2015

Email interview with Sara Rosenbaum, professor of health policy at George Washington University, Aug. 16. 2015

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Bernie Sanders repeats flawed claim about U.S. health care spending compared to other countries

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