On Wednesday, September 13, 2017, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders introduced a single-payer/expanded and improved Medicare for All health care bill (Senate Bill 1804) in the U.S. Senate. At a press conference that day, Senator Sanders stated, “The American people want to know what we are going to do to fix a dysfunctional health care system that costs twice as much per person as [that of] any other country in the world and still leaves 28 million people uninsured and an even larger number under-insured because of the high cost of deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses.” Sanders continued, “the crisis we are facing today in health care is not really about health care, it is a political crisis which speaks to the incredible power of the insurance companies, the drug companies, and all of those who make billions of dollars off of the current system. Over the years these entities have done everything they possibly can to prevent us from having lower-priced prescription drugs and universal health care.”
From a Fringe Movement to a People’s Movement
Although Senator Sanders has introduced a single-payer health care bill in the U.S. Senate every year since he was elected in 2007, until a few days before the September 13 press conference, not one U.S. Senator would co-sponsor his bill. As of September 13 there were 16 co-sponsors. What changed? One explanation is that, because Bernie Sanders brought up the topic during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential debates with his opponent Hillary Clinton, who steadfastly opposes single payer, that more people became aware of the issue. Others contend that the only reason Sanders suddenly had 16 co-sponsors–over 1/3 of Senate Democrats–is because of the tremendous grassroots organizing and activism during 2017. This phenomenon caught almost every corporate media pundit and politician off guard. Most of them thought the single-payer issue had vanished after the Democratic primary. Most of the 2017 activism came from organizations that have been fighting for single-payer Medicare for All for years, like Healthcare NOW, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), National Labor Campaign for Single Payer, the Green Party, and the National Nurses Union. But other, more recently formed organizations like Our Revolution and Health over Profit also added to the momentum of the “health care is a human right” movement.
What Sanders’ Single-Payer Medicare for All Bill Will Do
Sanders’ Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act will give everybody living in the U.S., including undocumented immigrants, an enhanced version of Medicare with no out-of-pocket expenses for health care needs, generic drugs, and dental, vision, and hearing aid coverage. It will eliminate all insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, non-coverage of procedures, and restrictive doctor and hospital choices currently mandated by corporate health insurance companies, and end lifetime spending caps that currently cause over one million people in the U.S. each year to declare bankruptcy and/or lose their homes in foreclosure due to medical debts. In essence, Sander’s healthcare bill will more or less eliminate corporate health insurance companies, and give the federal government the power to negotiate health care and pharmaceutical drug prices as a single payer, resulting in significantly lower costs. Under Sander’s bill, nobody will be denied healthcare or the drugs they need, a system that has successfully existed in every advanced industrialized country in the world except the U.S. for decades–since the late 1940s, for most of these counties.
To finance health care coverage for every U.S. resident, Sanders’ bill proposes a 6% tax on employers and a 1 to 4% payroll tax on employees, based on their income level, as well as a 1% tax on the richest 1% of Americans (billionaires) and a 1% tax on large banks and financial institutions. A 2013 study provided by Healthcare NOW has shown that even with a 10% tax on a self-employed person, who has to pay both the 6% employer and the 4% employee tax, those who earn less than $400,000 per year as an individual will save money and receive better coverage than they currently do with corporate health insurance.
The Battle Has Just Begun
Although the introduction of Sanders’ health care bill in the U.S. Senate is a major step forward, the campaign to get it passed into law will not happen overnight. There are very powerful corporate special interests that make tens of billions of dollars every year off the suffering of the American people that will fight this bill with every resource they have. Corporate health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and corporate hospital chains will pour billions of dollars into television, radio, newspaper and billboard advertising to try to convince Americans that Medicare for All is not the solution. Corporate media pundits on all of the corporate-owned (or corporate-financed, in the case of PBS and NPR) television and radio stations, newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, small town corporate-owned newspapers, and even so called “liberal” and “progressive” outlets like The Nation, The Atlantic, and others will have one supposed “expert” after another that will join in the same scripted chorus, saying that “Medicare for All will not work,” that it is “too expensive,” that “there will be long waiting lines for healthcare,” and other lies and distortions. In some cases the “expert” interviewed or the writer of a new article will proclaim that they are personally in favor of Medicare for All, and then will devote the entire article/interview to creating confusion and doubt as to its viability. This was recently done by Joshua Holland in The Nation magazine, and we will probably see an explosion in the number of such writers/commentators, since defending the corporate agenda is always more advantagous for a journalist’s career and financial well-being than speaking the truth and advocating what is in the best interests of ordinary people. They will all propagate the same corporate party line, that only corporate health care or taxpayer-subsidized corporate health care as with the ACA (Obamacare), will work. The decades-long success of universal health care in Canada, the U.K., Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and dozens of other countries proves otherwise.
No person in a country with a single-payer fully funded public health care system is denied the health care they need–unlike in the U.S. where 40,000-plus people die every year from treatable illnesses–nor are they forced into bankruptcy and/or losing their homes in foreclosure because of medical debt, as happens here in the U.S..
We cannot allow corporate special interests and their bought-and-paid-for politicians and media pundits to divide, distract, deceive, distort the truth, and lie to us in an effort to prevent us from getting what we desperately need: UNIVERSAL PUBLIC HEALTH CARE, a.k.a. Single-Payer Medicare for All. As of this writing, Illinois U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (217-492-4062) and Tammy Duckworth (217-528-6124) have refused to co-sponsor Senator Bernie Sanders’ healthcare bill. Call them and DEMAND that they co-sponsor Sanders’ bill (Senate Bill 1804).
David Johnson hosts the World Labor Hour radio program, which broadcasts and webcasts live worldwide every Saturday morning from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on WRFU – Radio Free Urbana , 104.5 FM and at www.wrfu.net.