During a discussion about health care on the October 21 broadcast of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that less is spent on health care in the United States, as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), than in countries with nationalized health care. In fact, the percentage of GDP spent on health is higher in the United States than in countries with government-provided health care, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Citing the recent United Auto Workers union concessions given to automaker General Motors Corp. (GM) and demanded by Delphi Corp., the nation's largest auto parts supplier, due in part to escalating health care costs for employees, host Bill Maher questioned if this country would be "better off" if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) had succeeded in creating the universal health care system she supported a decade ago while serving as first lady. Carlson replied: "Here's a simple question: In countries that have government-administered health care, does health care take a higher percent of GDP or a lower percentage of GDP than in the United States?" He asserted that it was a "fact" that health care costs are "more expensive in countries in which the government administers health care."
In fact, according to statistics compiled by the OECD -- an international organization of more than 30 countries, including the United States, that "shar[e] a commitment to democratic government and the market economy" -- health care costs consumed a higher percentage of GDP in the U.S. than any other member country. In 2003, health care costs in the United States amounted to 15 percent of GDP. Comparatively, countries with nationalized health care such as Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom spent a lower percentage of GDP on health costs. The United Kingdom and Spain each expended 7.7 percent of GDP on health care, while Italy and Canada spent 8.4 percent and 9.9 percent of GDP, respectively. Germany, France, and Switzerland expended 11.1 percent, 10.1 percent, and 11.5 percent of GDP, respectively.
Similarly, a September 2002 fact sheet prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at HHS noted that "[t]he United States spends a larger share of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care than any other major industrialized country."
From the October 21 broadcast of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher:
MAHER: This week, it was a big story to people who actually work for a living that GM and Delphi both made concessions to unions, or unions made concessions to them rather, because both -- Delphi was going bankrupt and said it's health care costs. General Motors, $1,500 of every car goes to health care costs. Wouldn't this country have been better off if 12 years ago when Hillary Clinton was trying to put forth a health care program, even if it wasn't perfect, instead of trying to destroy her, which is what the right wing did, couldn't they have worked with her? Couldn't we have had a program by now? I mean, please, the Clintons were not mad socialists. And when it came to actually the pesky work of doing government stuff, they were better at it than the Bush administration.
CARLSON: Here's a simple question: In countries that have government-administered health care, does health care take a higher percent of GDP or a lower percent of GDP than the United States? Your complaint is health care is so expensive that GM is causing its workers to pay more for it, right? It's too expensive in this country. It is more expensive in countries in which the government administers health care. That's just a fact.