Feb 5, 2018 - Health

Trump slams "universal health care," which he once praised

President Trump criticized Democrats this morning for wanting “universal health care,” citing the ongoing problems with Britain’s National Health Service. Funding shortfalls at the NHS have led to such long delays that some patients are being turned away from hospitals.

Yes, but: Universal coverage means everyone’s covered; it’s not necessarily the same thing as a single-payer health care system like the NHS. And it’s a goal Trump has repeatedly endorsed in the past.

What he's said before:

  • May 2017: Trump told Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian prime minister, that “you have better health care than we do.” (Australia has a single-payer system.)
  • January 2017: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,”
  • September 2015: "Everybody's got to be covered … I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not."
  • 2000: “I’m a conservative on most issues but a liberal on health … We must take care of our own. We must have universal healthcare.”

Reality check: In most of the world, single-payer — in which the government provides all or most health insurance, and in some cases directly employs health care providers —is the route to achieving universal coverage.

  • Such systems are indeed financed with high taxes.
  • But even countries with generous single-payer systems spend far less per person, in total, than the U.S. spends each year on health care. (Per-capita health care spending in the U.S. is more than double what the U.K. spends — we just don't spend it all through taxes.)

Go deeper: Jeremy Hunt, the U.K.'s health secretary, strikes back at Trump.

Go deeper