Today, Senator Bernie Sanders will introduce legislation to expand Medicare into a universal health insurance program. With the backing of at least 15 Democratic senators, the proposal has a record level of support.
Sanders’s bill, the Medicare for All Act of 2017, would create a public system covering
everything from emergency surgery to prescription drugs, from mental health to eye care, with no co-payments. Doctors would be reimbursed by the government, and providers would sign yearly participation agreements with Medicare to remain with the system. In an arrangement similar to Australia’s, private insurers would continue to exist—albeit with fewer customers—to pay for elective treatments such as plastic surgery.
Sanders’s proposal would be paid for by raising taxes, with the size of the tax increase to be determined in a separate bill. Sanders suggested that Americans would be happy to pay higher taxes if it meant the end of wrangling with health-care companies. “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.”
Sanders’s proposal has no chance of passing in a Republican-run Congress, and Republicans have been quick to attack it. On Tuesday, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), a medical doctor, cited the failure of a similar plan in Sanders’s home state of Vermont, crowing that Sanders’s bill had become “the litmus test for the liberal left.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rejected the “litmus test” characterization, cautioning that the Democratic party will not take a one-size-fits-all approach to health care reform. Sanders’s supporters, however, have contracted Pelosi, portraying the plan as popular and noting that57 percent of Americans support Medicare for All, according to Kaiser Health News.
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