For Bernie Sanders, the time for Medicare for All is now
Two years after he introduced his "Medicare for All" proposal, the state senator from Vermont returns with his single-payer health care project for everyone.
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In the midst of the Republican Party's unabashed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the resurgence of Sanders' proposal for a more comprehensive public health system is precisely what the debate needed.
This Wednesday, the senator will unveil his program, called Medicare for All, in a new attempt to establish a health system that covers all 323 million Americans.
After being the only one to support it at the beginning, Sanders now has a coalition of Democrats who are anticipating the 2020 elections, and have closed ranks around a government-funded health program, the antithesis of any republican dream.
Among his new supporters are Kamala Harris, Kirstin Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley and Tammy Baldwin.
The bill is designed to radically transform the US health care system over a four-year period through which a federally administered medical coverage program would be established.
Sanders' proposal would provide "comprehensive coverage" ranging from the cost of hospital services, prescription drugs, mental health, maternal and neonatal care and dental health, according to The Guardian’s analysis.
The proposal could also "gradually" expand Medicare to cover all Americans, not just people over 65, as it does today.
According to the senator, the difference would be only that insurance cards, such as the Blue Cross Blue Shield, would be replaced by a "Medicare For All" card, allowing all citizens to attend the same private doctors and the same hospitals, but with medical coverage that runs on behalf of the federal government.
While the proposal has gained ground within the Democratic bloc, representatives like Chris Murphy (Connecticut) insist that the immediate goal is to prevent Obamacare from disappearing, and that new proposals would only give more air to the Republican onslaught.
“The risk is getting distracted by a longer-term healthcare policy discussion when these guys are still rabid to gut the ACA,” the Democrat said.
For Sanders, this Canadian-inspired model is the way out for the United States and its citizens, who maintain a rate of mortality that continues to rise, even as money continues to seep into private health systems, far from public programs that contemplate health as a right like the ones established in countries such as France, Canada and Germany.
But not everything that shines is gold. Sanders promoted a similar system in his home state of Vermont where state lawmakers attempted to install a similar single payer system and failed in the attempt when experts estimated the program would require doubling taxes for state residents.
Sanders has recognized the price of its Medicare for All, and has assured that this is not a battle that will be won in days or months, but will need the joint work of those who believe in health as a right.
“I don’t want anyone to think that this is a struggle that’s going to be won tomorrow. And I don’t want anyone to think that [Senate Majority leader] Mitch McConnell is coming onboard this legislation. He is not”. For the Senator, the opposition to his project "will be extraordinary," represented by what he has described as "the most powerful and ambitious forces in American society: the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, Wall Street and the Republican Party."