Today, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will introduce his long-waited Medicare for All legislation in the US Senate. The bill aims to make "health care a right, not a privilege" and would essentially be an expansion of the existing Medicare program, which provides close to universal health care coverage for people 65-years-old and above and people with disabilities.
The conversation on Medicare for All, also known as "single payer health care," has gotten louder amid the recent GOP attempts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and the backlash that ensued from health care advocates and medical professionals. Sanders has been beating the drum for a universal health care system for decades, and after his remarkable run in the 2016 Democratic primary is now seen by many as one of the most popular politicians in the United States -- and according to a recent Washington Post analysis is currently the top Democratic contender for 2020. This newfound popularity is bringing Sanders' long-held policy beliefs front and center, and politicos not typically associated with Sanders style of progressive politics are flocking to his ideas and platform in droves.
This universal coverage policy would ostensibly be paid for by taxes that would insure all people would be covered, no matter their age, income or pre-existing conditions. The bill stipulates that Americans wouldn't have to avoid seeing a doctor because they can't afford it, and that doctor's visits wouldn't be limited to ones covered by your insurance plan. The bill also pushes for affordable prescription drugs, and a streamlined process between doctors, patients, and insurance companies to guarantee coverage.
So far, 15 other senators -- all Democrats for now -- are co-sponsoring the legislation. Sanders previously stressed that a single-payer national health care program is the only long-term solution to America's health care crisis, and in a statement said, "Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income."
The range of support from Democratic stalwarts is a game changer given previous reluctance to the bill. However, given that Republicans control both the Senate and Congress, not to mention the presidency, whether the bill will actually move is very much up in the air. And a major concern of lawmakers and voters is how much of a tax hike would be needed to pay for a Medicare For All program which is no trivial detail going into the 2018 midterms.
What you can do:
- Learn more and check out the live stream of Senator Sanders' press-conference on the Medicare for All Act, which starts today, September 13 at 2 pm ET.
- If you support Sanders' work on health care reform you can become a citizen-co-sponsors for his proposed legislation.
- Pay attention to activity at the state and local level. A number of states are actively considering single payer health care legislation.
- Disagree completely and think this is a bad move? Tell your Senators one way or the other, and check out the non-partisan rundown of health care info from the Congressional Budget Office.
And then some:
Sanders is fond of pointing out that the United States falls behind other nations in that the country spends close to twice as much per person on health care, and the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.
For example, data from a 2015 report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development indicated that the US spent almost three times on healthcare as the average of other countries with comparable incomes. For example, Italy and Britain spent $5,000 less per person on health care than the United States.
Activists, opinion makers and influencers are taking to television and social media to share their views. Writer and civil rights activist Shaun King urged more Senators to co-sponsor the bill, and asked those who agree to take action to demand they sign on now.