WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) 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.”
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.
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 under-insured, 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.
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.