Sen. Bernie Sanders Unveils ‘Medicare for All’ Plan, Faces Long Odds in GOP Controlled Legislature
Independent senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont unveiled his much hyped ‘Medicare for All’ single-payer health insurance plan today and Republican leaders say it stands little chance of passing in the GOP controlled U.S. House and Senate.
Sen. Sanders said his plan will make health insurance a right for all Americans but Republicans say eliminating copay and other costs means that more Americans will see their doctors, and that is a problem.
“Covering everyone and eliminating deductibles and copays would push spending up,” said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“You try prying loose [coverage] from people who are doing better than they would be under this shift,” said Tom Miller, a health-care expert at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.
He also expressed skepticism about the plan’s cost.
Sen. Sanders said he understands there will be opposition from Republicans and some healthcare professionals but he believes that if Americans can come together, the plan could become law.
“Here is the simple truth. Our opponents on this issue have the money and they have the power, but if billions of people across this country stand up, get involved in the political process and fight back, I have no doubt — none whatsoever — that this nation, sooner than people believe, will in fact pass a ‘Medicare for all’ single-payer system, and finally, finally, health care will be a right for all in the United States of America.” Sen. Sanders said.
Sanders’s plan calls for complete overhaul of the American health insurance system with a generous version of Medicare replacing nearly all private health insurance programs and the U.S. government having greater control over health costs.
Most health experts appear skeptical that such a near-complete takeover of America’s health insurance market will work but Sen. Sanders said Wednesday he believes Americans are ready for just such a program.
“The American people are catching on to where the Republicans are coming from, they see the limitations of the Affordable Care Act and they’re looking at the alternatives,” Sanders said. “And this is a rational alternative.”
As Sen. Sanders introduced his plan Wednesday, he was flanked by 16 other senators who have signed on to co-sponsor the bill, a far cry from 2013 when he could not get a co-sponsor when he first introduced the plan in the U.S. Senate.
Among the bill’s co-sponsors are potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates including Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Al Franken of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall of New Mexico, Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin also backed the plan.
Experts believe the chances of the ‘Medicare for All’ plan becoming law is low because Republicans who control both houses of congress are not willing to talk about universal coverage. They only care about repealing the Affordable Care also known as Obamacare.
But Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a co-sponsor said it was an honor to say “never again does anyone go bankrupt just because they got sick.”
“It is an enormous honor to stand with each of you to say never again does anyone go bankrupt just because they got sick,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).
“We will not back down in our protection of the Affordable Care Act. We will defend it at every turn, but we will go further, we will go further and we will say in this country everyone, everyone gets a right to basic health care. That’s what Medicare for all is all about, and that’s why we’re here,” Warren added.
The plan Sanders unveiled will be rolled out over four years with age of participation dropping every year until every U.S. resident is covered. Americans under the age of 18 will receive automatic coverage from year one.
Sanders said his plan will also separate health insurance from employment as it will cover a full range of benefits, including prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, inpatient and outpatient hospital care and maternity care.
As expected Republican leaders are staunchly opposed to the idea of expanding Medicare to cover all Americans.
“I can’t think of anything worse than having government be more involved in your health care instead of less involved,” Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, adding that ‘Medicare for All’ is a “horrible idea.”
She made fun of Senator Sanders saying that if his ‘Medicare for All’ idea were as popular as he believes, he would be sitting in the White House instead of Donald Trump.
“He pushed these ideas forward during the campaign and they were rejected, not just by America but by Democrats. He didn’t make it through the primary, he didn’t make it into the Oval. I think that’s a pretty clear indication of what Americans want to see and it’s not single-payer,” she said.
Even some Democratic leaders appear skeptical of the plan.
“Think about it as a car,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of the co-sponsors of the bill.
“You want to buy a new car, let’s say next year. In the meantime, your car right now — the one you own — needs a tire change, needs oil.
“So I think we need to continue to improve the Affordable Care Act, but I think it’s feasible that we can do ‘Medicare for all’ in the next few years.”
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