Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said that more Americans will die each year if the Republican health care bill passes than the number that died on 9/11.
The self-described Democratic socialist, who has long advocated for a national single-payer health care system, made the striking comment Sunday at a rally in Morgantown, West Virginia. Supporters at the event held signs that read, "Improve the Affordable Care Act. Don't Destroy It."
Sanders delivered the speech as the GOP-led Senate works to earn enough votes to pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which some Republicans say would repeal and replace Obamacare. The Republican-controlled House passed a bill in March that also purportedly repealed and replaced Obamacare.
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the House bill would result in an estimated 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026. The CBO predicted the Senate bill would result in 22 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026, Fox News reported.
Democrats used the CBO's prediction to publicly oppose Republican efforts to reform the nation's health care system. But Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, took the left's argument to a whole new level Sunday when he likened the GOP's health care bill to the worst-ever terror attack on U.S. soil.
At the rally on Sunday, Sanders said that "nobody can predict exactly how many people will die if they lose their [health insurance] coverage."
The Vermont senator claimed that experts at the Harvard School of Public Health recently estimated that the House GOP health care bill could result in 28,000 Americans dying each year. That claim, however, isn't quite accurate.
The study Sanders cited was released in 2014, which means it did not specifically look at the GOP health care bill to which Sanders referred.
The Harvard study's findings were published late last month in the New England Journal of Medicine. Harvard researchers looked specifically at the effects of health insurance expansion in various states. The most conservative prediction was in Massachusetts, where former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney signed "Romneycare" into law in 2006.
They found that as a result of Massachusetts' health insurance expansion, one life was saved for every 830 people who gained health insurance coverage as a result of the state law. Medicaid expansion in other states resulted in at least one life is saved for every 239 to 316 people who gained health insurance coverage, researchers found.
According to the Los Angeles Times, this "implies that the loss of insurance would lead to about 26,500 deaths per year by 2026 under the Senate GOP health care bill, and 27,700 deaths per year under the House version of the bill." However, Medicaid expansions have had different effects under Obamacare than they have under state expansion programs like Romneycare; additionally, only a fraction of the number of Americans who will "lose" health insurance under the CBO estimates will lose a government-funded medicaid expansion plan. Many will simply choose not to purchase private health insurance or will purchase catastrophic plans with health savings accounts — popular market-based reforms that the CBO does not count as "health insurance plans." Thus, attributing this statistic to the Harvard study, as opposed to a non-sequitur from an LA Times reporter, stretches the truth considerably.
As if misrepresenting the study wasn't bad enough, Sanders added insult to injury by comparing the inflated figure with the 9/11 death toll. A total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington, D.C., and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
"That is nine times more than the tragic losses of we suffered on 9/11, every single year," Sanders said.