Bernie Sanders proposes “Medicare for all”

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders recently introduced a new “Medicare for all” health care bill with a third of the Senate Democratic caucus by his side. When Sanders did this in 2013, he did it alone.

This bill is being introduced as Republicans offered a last-chance bill to repeal Obamacare by turning federal funding into block grants to states.

Neither bill is likely to be passed any time soon, several lawmakers said, but the two proposals show the deep divide in Congress over how the United States should fund and regulate medical care, hospitalization and the costs of prescription drugs.

That divide will continue to be an issue in next year’s mid-term elections: Democrats will be forced to declare if they are for a single-payer system, and Republicans will face questions about whether they will ever repeal Obamacare.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (DWash.) have been holding hearings as they try to craft a bill to stabilize the shaken individual insurance markets.

Sanders, an Independent, introduced his bill at a Capitol Hill rally with several of his 16 Democratic co-sponsors, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and scores of supporters from labor unions and other progressive groups. Threefifths of House Democrats back a similar bill in the House.

“Today all of us stand before you and proudly proclaim our belief that health care in this country must be a right and not a privilege,” Sanders said. The bill would establish Medicare, the current system

for those 65 and older, as the nation’s health care system, enroll all children up to age 18 in it during the first year, and phase it in over four years by lowering the age of adults each year until everyone is covered.

Sanders did not offer estimates of the cost or how he would pay for the bill. But the Medicare for All bill he promoted as he ran for president last year would cost $1.38 trillion a year, paid for by higher taxes, especially on the wealthy.

Most Americans would pay less for health care under his plan, he argued, because their bigger tax bill would be smaller than their current health insurance and out-of-pocket payments.

“As I travel around the state, one of the top concerns I hear from people is that health care is still too expensive,” said Gillibrand, who announced her support for Sanders’ bill.