Democratic debate fact check: AP examines claims from December debate

AP logo
Friday, December 20, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Seven Democratic presidential contenders tangled Thursday night in the last debate of the year, hard on the heels of President Donald Trump's impeachment.

How some of their claims compare with the facts:

BERNIE SANDERS, on Biden's proposed health care plan: "Under Joe's plan we retain essentially the status quo."

JOE BIDEN: "That's not true."

THE FACTS: It's not as simple as their lively exchange implies, but Biden is correct that his plan would go far beyond the "status quo."

Sanders' name is practically synonymous with "Medicare for All," a tax-financed, government-run system that would cover all U.S. residents while doing away with private insurance.

Biden, a former vice president, has proposed building on "Obamacare," adding a Medicare-like "public option" that any U.S. citizen or legal resident could opt for.

The U.S. has a hybrid health care system, that balanced between private coverage through employers, as well as government coverage through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Biden would retain a mix of private and public coverage, so in a sense that's the "status quo."

But Biden's public option that anyone could join would be a momentous change to the system, helping to get millions more people insured and paying hospitals and doctors based on Medicare rates, which are lower than what private insurance pays.

It's a big enough change that the insurance industry is opposed, as are many other health industry players.

So Bidencare would not be the status quo.


SANDERS: "Today in America, we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country on Earth."

THE FACTS: The Vermont senator is exaggerating.

There are nearly 200 countries in the world, many with people living in extreme poverty that most Americans would struggle to fathom. Poverty is also a relative measure in which someone who is poor in one nation might look rather prosperous in another.

But the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development updated its child poverty report in 2018. The United States had an above-average level of child poverty, but it was not among the 42 nations listed in the report that had the highest levels. The United States still fared better than Russia, Chile, Spain, India, Turkey, Israel, Costa Rica, Brazil