Health insurance image Sanders'sclaim becomes perplexing when you consider the total number ofuninsured people in recent years; last year it was just 27.5million..

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The moderators kicked off the third Democratic debate with thetopic of health care, teeing up another round of the ongoing"Medicare for All" debate.

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders caught our attention by claimingthat 50 million people lose their private insurance every year dueto employment changes.

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"George, you talked about, was it 150 million people on privateinsurance? 50 million of those people lose their private insuranceevery year when they quit their jobs or they go unemployed or theiremployer changes their insurance policy," Sanders said.

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Related: Democrats throw debate punches on health careplans

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That sounds like a huge number even before he qualified it byattributing it to job loss and other work-related occasions for aninsurance lapse.

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We reached out to the Sanders' campaign to discover the basisfor this claim and were pointed to ananalysis by the People's Policy Project, a socialDemocratic-leaning think tank. That analysis hinges on aquestion asked aspart of a national Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsurvey in 2014, plus a little basic multiplication.

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The survey asked adults between ages 18 and 64, in 43 states:"In the past 12 months was there any time when you did not have anyhealth insurance or coverage?" In response, 12.9% said they hadexperienced a gap in coverage, while 11.5% said they had beenuninsured for more than 12 months.

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The think tank analysis then combined those percentages andmultiplied them by current population estimates, coming up with"just under 50 million people" who were uninsured for at least partof the year. (It went on to endorse Medicare for All.)

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This claim becomes perplexing when you consider the total numberof uninsured people in recent years. In 2013, overall there weremore than 44 million uninsured, Americans under age 65. Withthe initial implementation of the Affordable Care Act, that numbersteadily declined until last year when it ticked up slightlyto 27.5million.

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A Sanders spokeswoman also cited anotherPeople's Policy Project blog post analyzing the numberof people who leave their jobs (66.1 million in 2018, it said) andgovernment data on the number of jobs the average worker has had byage 50 (11.9).

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The campaign specifically pointed to this sentence in the blogpost: "This labor turnover data leaves little doubt that peoplewith employer-sponsored insurance are losing that insuranceconstantly, as are their spouses and kids."

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The CDC data is compelling, to be sure — but Sanders did notaccurately portray what it said on the debate stage, nor did heaccurately portray the policy analysis his campaign claimed was hissource.

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Sanders appears to suggest that one-third of those with privateinsurance are uninsured for at least a short time every yearbecause of a change to their employment benefits.

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In actuality, the CDC data shows that about 24.4% of adultsunder age 65 in 2014 had experienced at least a gap in insurancecoverage in the previous year. The question did not ask respondentsto specify the cause.

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The age of the report also poses a challenge: The AffordableCare Act's Medicaid expansion began in 2014, and thereport surveyedjust 23 Medicaid expansion states at the time. Today, 37 statesand the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, suggesting thenumber of people with insurance gaps on an annual basis could havedropped.

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And the People's Policy Project analysis actually refers broadlyto 50 million Americans under age 65 who were uninsured,temporarily or otherwise — it doesn't say those people wereuninsured because their job situation changed.

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Our ruling: Mostly false

Sanders said that 50 million of those people lose their privateinsurance every year "when they quit their jobs or they gounemployed or their employer changes their insurance policy."

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Sanders has a point that coverage continuity is a big problem ina country where roughly 150 million get their insurance from theirjobs. But his claim inflates the scope of the problem.

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He took a broad finding of the number of people who hadexperienced an insurance gap for any reason roughly five years agoand misleadingly used it to describe a much narrower segment of thecurrent population who lost insurance because of employmentchanges.

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The claim has an element of truth but leaves out criticalinformation that would give a different impression. We rate thestatement Mostly False.

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Kaiser HealthNews (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is aneditorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation whichis not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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