Vermont Business Magazine Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and 16 of his Democratic colleagues introduced legislation Wednesday to guarantee health care to every American by expanding and improving Medicare. “Today, we begin the long and difficult struggle to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth not to guarantee health care to all its people,” Sanders said. “At a time when millions of Americans do not have access to affordable health care, the Republicans, funded by the Koch brothers, are trying to take away health care from up to 32 million more. We have a better idea: guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer health care program.”
See video below.
Sixty percent of the American people want to “expand Medicare to provide health insurance to every American,” including 75 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents, and 46 percent of Republicans, according to an April 2017 poll by The Economist/YouGov.
The Medicare for All Act of 2017 establishes a national health insurance program called the Universal Medicare Program. Under this legislation, every resident of the United States will receive health insurance through an expanded Medicare program with improved and comprehensive benefits. Sanders has introduced similar legislation in previous years.
It has been the goal of Democrats since Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a universal health care system guaranteeing health care to all people.
Sanders introduced the bill in the Senate along with Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
The Affordable Care Act, which Sanders supported when it was passed in 2010, was an important step forward. It provided access to health insurance for millions of people, but 28 million people remain uninsured.
Under today’s health care system in the United States, tens of millions are underinsured, meaning they have insurance but cannot afford to use it because of high deductibles and co-payments. One out of five American adults cannot afford their prescriptions. And thousands of people die each year because they cannot afford medical care.
Despite so many uninsured and underinsured, the United States spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation. According to the OECD, in 2015, the U.S. spent almost $10,000 per person for health care, while the Canadians spent $4,644, the Germans $5,551, the French $4,600 and the British $4,192 even though all of these other countries guarantee health care to all of their people. Despite this huge expenditure, life expectancy in America is lower than most other industrialized countries and our infant mortality rates are much higher.
The Medicare for All Act of 2017 would ensure that Americans will no longer have to delay or avoid going to the doctor because they can't afford it; that a hospital stay will not bankrupt you or leave you deeply in debt; that you will be able to get the prescription drugs you need at a price you can afford; that middle class families will never have to spend 20 or 30 percent of their incomes on health care; and, that Americans will save billions of dollars a year in medical administrative costs.
Under this bill, Americans will benefit from the freedom and security that comes with finally separating health insurance from employment. As is the case in every other major country, employers would be free to focus on running their businesses rather than spending an enormous amount of time, energy and money trying to provide health insurance to their employees.
The bill has been endorsed by 30 national organizations and unions including: Labor Campaign for Single Payer, Our Revolution, Social Security Works, Progressive Campaign Change Committee, Democracy for America, Working Families Party, MoveOn, All of Us, Demand Progress, Health Care Now, Progressive Democrats of America, CREDO, Public Citizen, Latinos for Healthcare Equality, Americans for Democratic Action, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, DailyKos, Food & Water Watch, Friends of the Earth, 350.org, American Sustainable Business Council, LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), National Nurses United, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, New York Nurses Association, Utility Workers Union of America, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, United Mine Workers of America, Amalgamated Transit Union and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
In addition to the legislation, Sanders published a paper outlining several options for funding the Universal Medicare Program. As the wealthiest country in the world, we have a variety of options available to support a universal, single-payer health care system.
Sanders' prepared remarks can be found here.
Senator Leahy (D-Vermont) Wednesday joined Sanders in introducing a bill that would ensure all Americans have quality health care. Leahy, long a supporter of universal health care, is an original cosponsor of Sanders’ Medicare For All Act of 2017.
Leahy said: “We’ve made progress in offering health insurance to millions of uninsured Americans, but the complex and costly system that ACA reformed still leaves millions without coverage. We need to begin serious conversations about getting to universal coverage and a simplified system. Health care is a right, not a privilege, and no American should be unable to receive the treatment that they need. I’m proud to support this Vermont-led push to improve on the successes of the Affordable Care Act, and I commend Senator Sanders for his long leadership on this issue.”
Through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more than 20 million Americans gained health insurance, but 28 million remain uninsured, including more than 20,000 Vermonters. The Medicare For All Act would extend the popular Medicare program to all Americans within four years, including the 28 million uninsured Americans under current law. This comprehensive coverage would include both inpatient and outpatient service, primary and preventive care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse treatment and pediatrics, dental, audiological and vision services.
Leahy also backs legislation aimed at giving immediate support through the existing Medicare system. He is a cosponsor of legislation to extend Medicare to Americans 55 and older and of legislation to make cost-sharing reductions permanent to help keep premiums down. He also is the chief sponsor of the CREATES Act, introduced in June, which would lower drug prices, and enjoys broad bipartisan support.
In Vermont, this legislation is supported by the Vermont National Education Association (NEA), Vermont American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Vermont Health Care for All, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility and Vermont AFL-CIO.
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) announced support Wednesday for the Medicare for All Act of 2017, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ new health care bill establishing a nationwide universal health care system.
“VBSR has called for the creation of a system like this since 1992,” said Jane Campbell, VBSR executive director. “The economic problems created by our employer-based health care system were obvious back then and have only grown worse. We are thankful that Sen. Sanders continues to show leadership on this important business issue.”
The current employer-based health care system hampers economic growth, creates an unlevel playing field for businesses that pay for their employees’ health care, and leads to unsustainable and out of control costs, according to the Burlington, Vt.-based business group with more than 700 members. The United States Senate should immediately schedule hearings on the bill and move swiftly to follow the rest of the industrialized world in creating a universal health care system, according to VBSR.
Creating a health care system that covers all Americans, decouples insurance from employment, controls costs, and is funded fairly based on a person’s ability to pay has long been the goal of VBSR. Passage of the Affordable Care Act and companion legislation in Vermont has expanded access in the Green Mountain State, but has not solved the critical problems of reining in health care costs and removing the burden from the backs of the business community.
Sen. Sanders unveiled his Medicare for All bill at a Washington, D.C. press conference early Wednesday afternoon. VBSR looks forward to working with our members and our partners at the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) to support this legislation and find common sense and pro-business solutions to America’s health care problems.
For a copy of the Medicare for All Act, click here.
For a copy of the executive summary of the Medicare for All Act, click here.
For the summary by title of the Medicare for All Act, click here.
For a copy of the “Options to Finance Medicare for All," click here.
VBSR praises Sanders’ health care bill:
Jennifer Kimmich, co-owner of The Alchemist in Stowe:
“I support replacing employment-based health insurance with a comprehensive national healthcare system. As an employer, we recognize the economic value in supporting a healthy and stable workforce, but the substantial cost of providing health insurance to our employees is a significant challenge for our business. If we are serious about addressing the three fundamental areas of health care- access, quality and cost- we need bold policy that supports a national healthcare system and universal coverage for everyone.”
Bram Kleppner, CEO of Danforth Pewter in Middlebury:
“Medicare for All will unleash a powerful wave of economic activity, as businesses large and small are freed from the burden of administering health insurance systems and can put their energy and their money to more productive use. Medicare for All will lead to lots of new businesses. There are a lot of Americans who dream of starting their own businesses but can’t quit their day jobs because they need the health insurance, and they will all finally be free to quit their jobs and start companies of their own.”
Don Mayer, CEO of Small Dog Electronics in Waitsfield:
“Medicare for all is not just health care reform, it is an economic development program. When I started in business over 40 years ago, I paid about $1,500 to cover an employee and their family. Now, coverage that is not even as complete costs me over $15,000. As I consider expanding my business, no longer do I just think about the cost of wages to add new employees, I must carefully consider that $15,000 expense which makes adding jobs much harder. Decoupling health insurance from employment will stimulate the economy and result in significant job growth.”
Russ Bennett, owner of Northland Design & Construction in Waitsfield:
“Healthy people who don’t have to worry about how to get the health care they need for themselves are more stable and productive and happy than people who don’t. We have provided comprehensive health insurance for our employees all these years despite much pressure not to do so in order to save money and make our services cheaper. This step of expanding Medicare to cover all Americans is a good step to make at this time to build a healthier society, similar to the rest of the modern civilized world.”
Source: Sanders. Leahy. VBSR. 9.13.2017