The veteran United States senator has started a national conversation on the need for a universal health care system and he has already garnered promising support.
When Bernie Sanders introduced a bill into the US senate in 2013 for a single payer, universal health care system, not a single senator stood in support.
When he introduced a similar bill last month advocating for a Canadian-style public health system that would cover all Americans the proposed legislation – called Medicare for All – was co-sponsored by 16 other Democrats. This is a third of the Democratic caucus and included four prominent leaders tipped to run for the 2020 presidency.
“This is where the country has got to go. Right now, if we want to move away from a dysfunctional, wasteful, bureaucratic system into a rational healthcare system that guarantees coverage to everyone in a cost-effective way, the only way to do it is Medicare for All,” Sanders told The Washington Post.
Polls show the Sanders’ plan has plenty of public support, but this support is fragile and vulnerable to the attacks expected from vested interests.
Corporations will fight all the way
When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 promising to reform the healthcare system, public support for a single-payer system stood at 46 per cent. A recent Kaiser poll found 53 per cent now support the idea.
But when told that Medicare for All would involve paying higher taxes almost two in five respondents changed their mind. The number opposing the proposal went from 43 per cent to 60 per cent.
Sanders warned supporters to expect a formidable fight with what he calls the “most powerful and greedy forces in American society”: the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, Wall Street and the Republican Party.
“The opposition to this will be extraordinary,” he said.
Sanders acknowledged that the cost of a new system will be the focus of attacks. But he argues that the US spent more per capita on healthcare than other developed countries with a single payer system. And despite the United States spending more, 28 million Americans remain uninsured, infant mortality rates are higher and life expectancy is shorter.
Supported by American nurses
In a speech to the National Nurses United (NNU) convention Sanders said: “We have to understand that maintaining the status quo is just not good enough.
“Our job is to join every major country on earth and guarantee healthcare to all, as a right, not a privilege.”
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of NNU, called on nurses to contact their Senators and ask them to support Medicare for All “and tell them we’re going to hold them accountable”.
Convention delegates passed a resolution calling for an end to the role of insurance companies in healthcare “and the human suffering they cause” and pledged that NNU would only endorse candidates who support a single payer system.
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