Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation acknowledging that health care is a right, not a privilege. Medicare for All, as we’re now calling it, doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of becoming law anytime soon.
Still, this is a discussion worth having, as fifteen or so Democratic Senators have agreed to be co-sponsors. Even as we continue to oppose Republican attempts take the nation back to the 19th century, it is time to be FOR something.
As I understand it, the Sanders bill would cover everything from emergency surgery to prescription drugs, from mental health to eye care–and this is a biggie–along with dental care with no co-payments.
Here’s how the Vermont Senator explained implementation in a New York Times op-ed:
The transition to the Medicare for All program would take place over four years. In the first year, benefits to older people would be expanded to include dental care, vision coverage and hearing aids, and the eligibility age for Medicare would be lowered to 55. All children under the age of 18 would also be covered. In the second year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 45 and in the third year to 35. By the fourth year, every man, woman and child in the country would be covered by Medicare for All.
Needless to say, there will be huge opposition to this legislation from the powerful special interests that profit from the current wasteful system. The insurance companies, the drug companies and Wall Street will undoubtedly devote a lot of money to lobbying, campaign contributions and television ads to defeat this proposal. But they are on the wrong side of history.
Not one of the GOP’s ‘repeal and replace’ plans even addressed these issues. For them, it was about “me-me-me,” balancing off (mostly false promises of) reducing costs for the economically advantaged by depriving the rest of the population of access to health care.
What the Republican proposals were proactive on was ensuring future profitability for the various industries taking advantage of the current mode of health care.
Some in the pharmaceutical industry, the poster child for “care’ hypocrisy, are worried that things have already gone too far. At a recent health care conference in Boston, Allergan CEO Brent Saunders talked about big pharma’s trust issues, noting the industry consistently ranks lower than oil and tobacco companies in polling.
From Lee Fang at The Intercept:
Americans have lost trust in drug companies, Saunders said, noting the industry consistently ranks lower than oil and tobacco companies in public trust surveys.
“I think we’ve got to do things to bring that trust back,” the executive added. “Because ultimately, someone’s going to be in the White House. Somebody’s going to be in Congress. Someone’s going to be somewhere and going to have to say, ‘Enough’s enough. Let’s just change the whole system. Let’s go to one payer. Let’s do something.’”
While single payer has been discarded as a fringe, far-left idea over recent generations, the policy proposal has gained new traction in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. Many in the Democratic Party are drifting to the ideas of Sanders and other progressives who have long advocated for expanding coverage by providing Medicare to all Americans.
As part of the media blitz preceding the introduction of the Medicare For All proposal, Senator Sanders was also interviewed in the Washington Post:
As he described his legislation, Sanders focused on its simplicity, suggesting that Americans would be happy to pay higher taxes if it meant the end of wrangling with health-care companies. The size of the tax increase, he said, would be determined in a separate bill.
“I think the American people are sick and tired of filling out forms,” Sanders said. “Your income went up — you can’t get this. Your income went down — you can’t get that. You’ve got to argue with insurance companies about what you thought you were getting. Doctors are spending an enormous amount of time arguing with insurers.”
The idea of universal single payer health care has gained popularity; even 46% of self-identifiedRepublican voters favor expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American.
Bernie Sanders has already shifted the Democratic consensus on one of the party’s bread-and-butter issues. The times they are a changin,’ as Jeff Stein points out at Vox:
But now 15 Senate Democrats — many of whom are potential 2020 contenders — have signed on to the bill, even though it hasn’t yet been publicly released. Sanders’s new “Medicare-for-all” bill, the product of months of debate and negotiations, may be the most detailed single-payer legislation introduced in Congress.
The bill’s newfound popularity will surely come with scrutiny, and in our interview Sanders acknowledged the difficulty of the policy trade-offs in crafting the bill.
“This is complicated stuff. And you know what? There’s nobody who has all of the answers. Nobody has all the answers,” he said.
A Medicare-for-all bill in the House, introduced by Rep. John Conyers has 117 co-sponsors — roughly 60% of the Democratic caucus. Noticeably absent from the list are Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
This year’s proposals aren’t going far. The Republican leadership will only allow discussion of them if they perceive an advantage in branding Democrats as evil socialists who will raise taxes. If there’s anything the GOP is good at, it’s fear mongering, and I have no doubt they’ll use the usual boogie men on this issue.
The difference between 2017’s push for health care reform and past years will be the 24 grassroots organizations with a combined membership base of tens of millions of people who have pledged to continue to support Medicare for All as an issue over the long term.
From Ziad Jilani at The Intercept:
In an email to his campaign list sent earlier this month, Sanders described the organizing that will be put into passing universal Medicare as similar to a presidential campaign.
“We’re going to put together a grassroots movement that organizes people in all parts of this country much like we did during the presidential race,” he wrote. “There will be rallies, buttons, bumper stickers, shirts and most importantly people organizing in their communities across the country. This is not going to be a quick or easy fight. We’ll be taking on the insurance companies, the drug companies, Wall Street and all those who make billions in profit from the current dysfunctional system.”
The crucial part of this discussion will come down to finances. Republicans, whether they’re willing to admit it or not, have already lost the battle over universal coverage.
Obamacare was a compromise, incorporating many ideas espoused by conservatives. The decision of the GOP’s leadership to trash the idea instead of tweaking it opened the door to where the national discourse now stands.
As Bernie Sanders and other supporters have pointed out, this won’t be easy. There are legitimate structural economic questions concerning jobs (a lot of people are employed in the insurance business) and creating a payment system recognizing the high costs of becoming a medical practitioner.
None of these obstacles change the fact that the present system does not work in so many ways. Creative solutions can be found. Or we can sit around and ignore the problem. Your choice.
Eventually, it will come down to whether the concept of higher taxes offset by no premiums and deductibles can be made palatable. Once that’s solved, Medicare for All will be making the jump from concept to reality. It’s an idea whose time has come.
Things that make you go hmmm?
Trump “I have nothing to do with Russia”
Pence: “All the contact by the Trump campaign and associates was with the American people” pic.twitter.com/WbXyYIgJj2
— Facts Do Matter (@WilDonnelly) September 12, 2017
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