Hillary’s Lies About Single-Payer Healthcare Insult the Intelligence of Democrats

© Josh Sager – January 2016

In recent weeks, Hillary Clinton has delivered a two-pronged and incredibly disingenuous attack against Bernie Sanders for his position in favor of single-payer healthcare. She is simply lying while making these attacks and is betting on the American people being too ignorant about policy matters to identify the amazing dishonesty of her case.


While it is often pointless to speculate about politicians’ motivations for such attacks, Hillary’s decision to attack Bernie on this issue may have something to do with the fact that he is now polling within the margin of error of her in several key primary states (including Iowa and New Hampshire. Alternately, it could have something to do with the $2.8 million dollars in personal revenue that the health insurance industry has given Hillary in exchange for “speeches” in the last three years alone (after all, the health insurance industry’s worst fear is a Sanders-style single payer competitor).


Hillary’s first line of attack against Bernie Sanders’s single-payer proposal is based around the Wall Street Journal’s assertion that it would cost at least $18 trillion dollars in the first decade alone. This attack was first delivered during the December Democratic primary debate and has been repeated several times since by various Hillary proxies.

The dishonesty of this line of attack is not in the inaccuracy of the statement itself, but the fact that vital information is omitted. It is certainly true that any single-payer plan will cost trillions of dollars to implement, but this cost is actually far below the projected costs of continuing the current system of market-reliant health insurance. In fact, the economist whose research was cited in the Wall Street Journal’s article wrote a letter rebuking their distortions and explaining that Bernie’s single payer plan would SAVE the American people $5.081 trillion during the decade he analyzed.

The USA spends a truly astonishing amount of money on healthcare every year ($3 trillion according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and the passage of a single-payer healthcare plan would simply redistribute and reduce these costs. Single-payer healthcare has lower costs than private insurance because it doesn’t extract premiums as profits, has lower administrative overhead, and utilizes minimal advertising. Because of this disparity, the Sanders plan to shift millions of Americans into a public option would reduce overall costs and a simple assessment of the costs associated with the public option is deceptive at best.

Ironically, this anti-single-payer attack by the Hillary camp is the exact same attack that the GOP has levied against Social Security. They claim that the program is a massive “unfunded liability” because it will cost us trillions of dollars over the next few decades, yet fail to mention that this money will be returned as benefits and that all credible assessments conclude that Social Security actually generates more economic growth (it increases the buying power of the elderly, which buoys aggregate demand for commercial goods).

Hillary’s second line of attack against Bernie Sander’s health care plan is that it would destroy Medicare and CHIP, throwing millions of Americans off of their healthcare, and would result in the repeal of Obamacare. She first used this attack during the 3rd Democratic primary debate and has used her daughter as a proxy to levy it again this week (Chelsea doesn’t sneeze on the campaign trail without her mother’s permission).

Put simply, this assertion is a demonstrable lie that is designed to trick liberals who want to protect vital social safety net programs into opposing the expansion of said programs to protect even more Americans. Bernie Sanders’s single-payer program would expand the benefits of Medicare to help everybody—not just the elderly and disabled—by creating a massive care pool that anybody could buy into. This “destruction” of Medicare would, in reality, result in its expansion by orders of magnitude and render it essentially immune to political attacks in the future (it would help so many people).


Polls show that a crushing majority of Democrats support a universal single-payer.

Here is a small excerpt from Sanders’s healthcare bill that just drives home how disingenuous this attack is:

SEC. 102. UNIVERSAL ENTITLEMENT. In General.—Every individual who is a resident of the United States is entitled to benefits for health care services under this Act under the appropriate State health security program. In this section, the term “appropriate State health security program” means, with respect to an individual, the State health security program for the State in which the individual maintains a primary residence.

In short, this section of the bill makes it so that every resident of each state has a right to be enrolled in either Medicare or Medicaid (or both if they are dual-eligible), regardless of their age, income, infirmity, or citizenship status. It is the ultimate expansion of health insurance availability that would render large parts of Obamacare redundant. The passage of this bill would bring the US more in line with European nations like France, which have significantly better health results (on average), at lower costs, and with universal accessibility.

In response to this reality, the Hillary campaign has argued that the Bernie Sanders plan to provide universal health insurance is dangerous because it would give power back to the states, many of which are run by Republicans. She has used this line of attack multiple times, the most recent of which was her last campaign event in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, this argument is simply false and deceptive.

While the Bernie Sanders health insurance bill would give some latitude to the states to design their own program, any state that either refuses to participate or designs a program that does not meet federal requirements would simply have their state insurance program run by the federal government. There would be no way for state Republicans to simply refuse to implement this single-payer program (short of illegal and unconstitutional nullification) and their ability to pervert it would be strictly limited by federal oversight.


There is a perfectly valid debate over healthcare, but these disingenuous attacks are outside the acceptable bound of this debate—they are not based in fact and are designed to take advantage of the policy ignorance of the American people. Hillary Clinton supports in the centrist and market-based solution for providing health access to the American people while Bernie Sanders supports a liberal universal option, and the debate should be between the merits of these two ideas rather than on imaginary problems.

We have seen what the final result is when a political party lets fact-free attacks take over the political discourse—it is a party where Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are fighting for the nomination of the frothing masses of young-earthers and science deniers. Democrats should hold our candidates to a much higher standard and must demand that Hillary stop these non-factual attacks against liberal health insurance policies.

12 thoughts on “Hillary’s Lies About Single-Payer Healthcare Insult the Intelligence of Democrats

  1. I recall when Hillary Clinton was the “first lady”, when Bill was prez. She tried to solve the problem of health insurance, but her plan was so unwieldy, so beholden to various monied interest groups, that it was regarded as a hot mess and they never even tried to implement it. There were so many people in her exploratory committee that disagreements took over, they could not agree on a plan. Yet here she is, once again, claiming to be an expert. She wants her legacy…..but in order to leave a legacy you have to do something remarkable, you have to lead, you have to rise above quarreling and present a viable, well-thought-out plan that others will agree with….She feels entitled to the Presidency….”isn’t it my turn”…now that her husband has been president….next she expected to win and then Barack Obama came along and was widely acclaimed….now she has to contend with Bernie Sanders, in a race she thought was to be her triumph, she thought to run unopposed…..if her personal ambition were not the most important thing to her at this point, perhaps she would consider the Medicare-for-all and other options, but I think she has her OWN plans that have not been revealed….for a reason, of course, because she could not risk having people know her real agenda until AFTER she would be elected….she doesn’t want a good solution to the health care problem unless it can have her personal stamp on it…..as usual, I hesitate to post my comment…but do so anyway


  2. Josh, in my experience, which includes serving as president of my local township Democratic Club, many voters know very little about how health care programs work. For example, out of a roomful of about 30 club members, only one person knew that most of western Europe is NOT on a single payer system. Only Norway and the U.K. are.
    In other countries, some of which have highly rated health care (France and Italy score particularly high), they use private insurers. The companies are tightly regulated and compete on services rather than price. Those who need help with paying get it. You don’t necessarily need single-payer to have a good program.
    I really would like to see this discussion take place without all the vitriol. When you toss around words like “lies” and “insults,” I think there is no hope for a productive discussion.


    • I also have experience on this issue. For the last year, I have worked at a public policy group focusing on health care issues (Community Catalyst) and have seen the consequences of this ignorance first-hand.

      I don’t mince words and will call out lies where I see them. Hillary has experience on this issue and Chelsea has a Masters in Public Health, so to see both of them propose such a patently false line of attack is a clear indication that they are lying. Given this, I assume that they are not incompetent enough to accidentally make an argument that even a freshman taking their first public health class can easily debunk.


  3. I’m sorry, but to think that the details of bernie’s plan matters Is delusional. Do you remember the holy war of getting Obamacare passed? That the only thing standing between us and a repeal of Obama care is…well…Obama? On what planet do you think that passing single payer happens? Incrementalism good. Purity bad. Just look at the republicans. Do you want to be them?


    • Actually, you are entirely wrong. Bernie voted for the ACA and wouldn’t repeal it while pushing for single payer. If he is successful, then the ACA become far less important (only the parts regulating insurers like the recision ban and 80/20 rule) and BernieCare would cover everybody who is underserved or ignored by the ACA; conversely, if he isn’t successful, then the ACA stands as the law and it will be protected from GOP attacks.

      On some issues, I am a purist. Health care should be a right, civil rights should be protected, education should be universal and accessible, etc. Your idea about purity is correct in most cases, but there are places where we cannot afford to be the fireman who compromises with the arsonist.


  4. Every election is about at least two things. The best candidate and the candidate who can win. Usually those two things do not mesh. The Dems are blessed with two progressive candidates. But the US is not blessed with a progressive electorate. You have to take what you can get. Clinton will not roll back the ACA. She will not roll back women’s rights. Neither will Sanders. But in the general election Clinton has a much better chance of winning. Sanders, while a very decent and honorable man, will be labeled a “socialist” and a “communist”. That label will do him in . The GOP does not fear Sanders. They are wetting their shorts over a Clinton candidacy. With good reason.
    And the real catastrophe would be if any GOP candidate ended up as POTUS. Because of gerrymandering, like it or not, we WILL have a GOP House of Reps. I am not willing to take a chance on having a GOP POTUS working together to dismantle that which has been accomplished in the last 7 years, with great difficulty.
    The Dems need to be careful that they do not end up with another 1968/1972 election cycle where their candidate was tarred with the “left-wing” and “radical” image. It lead to the catastrophe of Nixon and eventually to the bigger catastrophe of Reagan. And don’t forget the Nader candidacy in 2000 which MAY have pulled enough progressive votes from Gore to give the state of Florida, and the election, to GW Bush. (Bush “won” by 500 votes…Nader pulled in 97,000 votes on the Green Party line).
    My point. A win with a lesser candidate is much better than a loss with a better candidate.


    • Actually, if you look at the polling, you find that Americans are far more progressive than most people assume and agree with Bernie Sanders on a majority of issues: http://www.salon.com/2014/07/28/gops_30_year_spin_job_is_over_why_we_are_not_a_center_right_nation/

      While it may seem intuitive that Hillary will do better in the general election, this isn’t actually the case. First, any democrat to get the nomination will be called a “socialist” or a “communist” and people who are scared by such accusations won’t know enough to realize that they are false. Second, head to head polling indicates that Bernie does better against all of the prospective GOP candidates than Hillary does: http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/261756-poll-sanders-more-electable-than-hillary-against-top

      Bernie wins independents by approximately 40% and would capture a devastating majority of Hispanic, young, and educated voters.


      • The problem with polling data at this time (in the election cycle) when comparing Sanders and Clinton. Clinton has had mud thrown at her for for 25 years. As first lady, as senator, as secretary of state. She has weathered the storms. Her negatives are as high as they are going to go. The GOP has not even started trashing Sanders. If he were to get the nomination he would soon see the negative ads take their toll. Sanders, while I like him better, is more susceptible to having his numbers driven down by the hate machine.
        I have no doubt that Americans are more progressive than the elections indicate. The problem is the apathy and lack of commitment by many to simply turn out and vote. The GOP/fundamentalist coalition has a massive voter turnout machine in the form of right wing churches. Look at “off-year” elections. Where were the progressives? The right wing has done an excellent job of winning state legislatures in off -year elections which translates into effective gerrymandering of the House. As an old liberal it is especially frustrating for me to see the lack of voting by folks who should know better, including some of my own relatives!
        But. Take heart. I am usually dead wrong in my political predictions. I thought Trump would burn out by now and Jeb would be riding high. Hope you are right and I am wrong.


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