Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fact-checking Democratic presidential candidates' claims about health issues in their first debate

The first of a pair of debates among Democrats running for president aired on MSNBC last night, with 10 of them vying to stand out in a crowded field; the other 10 qualifiers will debate tonight.

Rural America wasn't specifically mentioned, beyond a handful of references to the need to reduce President Trump's advantage ther. However, health care, a major rural concern, was a frequent topic. Here's some fact-checking from The Washington Post on candidates' health care claims:

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said: "The overhead for insurers that they charge is 15 percent, while Medicare, it’s 2 percent."

The Post says: "The Medicare figure of 2 percent is artificially reduced because some key functions are undertaken by other agencies — and because Medicare’s patients are unhealthier. Booker said administrative costs for private insurers are 15 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has claimed that the cost falls between 12 percent to 18 percent, and Booker seems to have picked the midpoint. But previous estimates of the administrative costs per patient indicate that Medicare is actually more inefficient than private insurance, as we found in this fact check."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said: "2,500 drugs have gone up in double digits since [Trump] came into office."

That statistic comes from a 2018 tweet by former Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator Andy Slavitt that listed 2,500 drugs with such price increases, "but the big picture is brighter," the Post reports. "The consumer price index for prescription drugs fell by 0.6 percent for the 12 months ending in December, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The decline would be the first time in 46 years in the December-to-December time frame, but there have been other 12-month periods with index declines, mostly recently in 2013. The index dropped also in January, February, March and May — a string of monthly declines not seen since 1973."

Beto O'Rourke, a former congressman from Texas, said: "Despite what Purdue Pharma has done, their connection to the opioid crisis and the overdose deaths that we’re seeing throughout this country, they have been able to act with complete impunity and pay no consequences."

"In terms of money, O’Rourke is wrong," the Post says, noting that the maker of OxyContin agreed in March to pay a $270 million civil settlement in Oklahoma and faces lawsuits around the country. In 2007, three executives were spared prison time and sentenced to probation after agreeing to plead guilty to charges that they misled federal regulators about the addiction risks of the drug."

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