Days after Sen. Bernie Sanders's town hall hosted by Fox News revealed that many Fox viewers would support his Medicare for All plan, President Donald Trump's appointee in charge of Medicare appeared on the network in an apparent attempt at damage control.
Seema Verma, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator, appeared on "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday to claim that Sanders's proposal would deliver worse health outcomes for Americans at a higher price than the current for-profit system—contrary to a number of studies from across the political spectrum.
Media Matters labeled Verma's interview an intentional "smear" of the Vermont Independent senator's appearance and proposal.
"What we're talking about is stripping people of their private health insurance, forcing them into a government-run program," Verma told host Brian Kilmeade, calling the proposal "the biggest threat to the American healthcare system."
“The reality is the American healthcare system is producing amazing innovations, & a government system where there’s no competition to innovate & provide high quality care, could lead to lower quality care for ALL Americans.” View the full clip here: https://t.co/1cWDGeu9fM
— Administrator Seema Verma (@SeemaCMS) April 17, 2019
Verma also claimed people in countries that guarantee healthcare for residents and pay for those programs with higher taxes regularly flock to the U.S. to take advantage of its healthcare system.
In fact, as Mother Jones reported in 2017, hundreds of thousands of Americans left the U.S. to obtain healthcare in 2016, while 45,000 Canadians left their home country for medical reasons that same year—roughly equal proportions at about .08 and .13 percent of each country's population, respectively. However, Canadians mainly fled home in order to get elective surgery that they would have had to wait for under their universal healthcare systen, while Americans traveled because of high medical costs, not the types of procedures available.
"So you see, every kind of healthcare system has its own problems," wrote Kevin Drum. "Canada's is bad for rich people who can afford to pay top dollar to get faster service. America's is bad for poor people, who would go bankrupt if they paid American prices."
At his town hall on Monday, Sanders explained to the politically diverse audience how a Medicare for All system would require some Americans to pay higher taxes, but how the elimination of insurance deductibles, copays, and premiums would offset those tax increases for the average household.
Fox host Bret Baier, a moderator of the debate, asked the audience to raise their hands if they would support a system like the one Sanders described; most hands went up.
Verma claimed Wednesday that a Medicare for All system would be prohibitively expensive while creating longer wait times for the senior citizens who have paid into the Medicare system, forcing them to share their right to obtain medical care with the rest of the country—but studies including one by the Koch brothers-linked Mercatus Institute have revealed that the proposal would cost less than the current for-profit system.
While Sanders's proposal is expected to cost about $32 trillion over 10 years, the current system costs American families $3.5 trillion per year according to Verma's own agency. This puts projected healthcare costs at $35 trillion over a decade—if they stay exactly the same each year.
In recent days, Verma has also claimed that Medicare for All would stifle "innovation"—prompting physician and author Eric Topol to respond that healthcare should be considered a civil right rather than an opportunity for healthcare administrators and businesses to innovate.
Noteworthy that @SeemaCMS can say that providing #healthcare for all US citizens is "the greatest threat to innovation in healthcare'https://t.co/6SHI7E9YWO I couldn't disagree more, whatever it is called —Medicare or Mediscare—must be considered a civil right. @MobiHealthNews
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) April 10, 2019